Wellington - All Black great Keven Mealamu expressed regret Friday for his infamous tackle on Brian O'Driscoll during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour, but stopped short of apologising to the former Ireland captain.
Instead, the 132-Test veteran said his main regret about the incident was that it diverted attention from his team's sublime performance in winning the first Test 21-3.
"It's not something you ever want to do - take the focus away from the team and the performance," Mealamu told the newsroom.co.nz website.
"It's something I still feel stink (bad) about."
The 2005 tour opened with one of the most controversial tackles in the game's history, when Mealamu and Tana Umaga combined to lift O'Driscoll and drive him into the Christchurch turf just moments after kick-off.
The Lions captain suffered a dislocated shoulder and was sidelined for six months, overshadowing the entire tour.
At the time, O'Driscoll accused New Zealand of targeting him "in cold blood", saying "they could have broken my neck for all they seemed to care".
The tackle still generates heated discussion 12 years later, with the Lions poised to return to New Zealand next month determined to avenge the 3-0 mauling they suffered in 2005.
Mealamu insisted there was no ill intent and he did not even realise O'Driscoll was injured until play was halted while he was carried from the field.
"It's one of the reasons I didn't go back to see how he was because it happened so quickly and I had moved on," he said.
"I just thought it was a typical rugby movement till I realised Tana was on the side and we had tipped him up and he had landed on his shoulder."
While Umaga called O'Driscoll a "sook" (cry baby) in his autobiography, Mealamu said he had a polite conversation with the Irishman when they chanced upon each other in a Hong Kong restaurant earlier this year.
"We didn't talk about what happened," he said.
"But we did get to catch up. It's the first time we've had a proper conversation since the event."