O'Driscoll captaincy gathering pace
If Warren Gatland and his newly confirmed coaching team of Rob Howley, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree need any reminder of the challenge facing them they need only replay Jim Telfer’s classic exhortation to the 1997 British and Irish Lions squad.
“Being picked is the easy bit,” stressed the hard-bitten Scottish coach. “To win as a Lion is the ultimate.”
The 2013 Lions, by common consent, will head for Australia next summer with that precise same mindset and with the final squad set to be named in late April, it looks increasingly likely that Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, fitness permitting, will be the preferred tour captain.
From the tour manager Andy Irvine, another Scottish legend with a strong competitive streak, to the game’s most renowned medic, Dr James Robson, set for his sixth Lions tour, there is not one member of the management team unaware the Lions have been without a series win since 1997.
“We’re going out with the firm objective we’ve got to get a victory,” said Irvine, already determined it will take a major Wallaby effort to deny the touring side this time.
On a crisp December day at Hopetoun House just outside Edinburgh, no one was seriously taken in by Gatland’s matter-of-fact observation that Australia might be the “easiest” of the traditional big three Lions tours.
He was only talking relatively, comparing it to the remorselessly brutal treks around the unforgiving provincial fields of New Zealand and South Africa.
Gatland has already selected a hypothetical squad which does not include any players who missed the autumn internationals through injury.
The sub-text is clear: sidelined players such as Paul O’Connell, Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate and (the recently-returned) Seán O’Brien will need to prove their fitness during the Six Nations if they want to be waved through departures in late May.
Gatland also made clear England’s win over New Zealand had enhanced the claims of several individuals, including a couple with only a handful of caps.
Irish duo named in backroom team
Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly
Has been baggage man to the Ireland team for 18 years and will embark on his second Lions tour next summer having been part of the backroom team in South Africa in 2009. Educated at Terenure College, he played hooker on both the JCT and SCT teams. Has been involved with Ireland for the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups.
Will travel with the Lions as logistics manager. He has been working with the IRFU since 1992 in a variety of roles. In 2003, he was squad administrator to the Ireland team at the World Cup. He was appointed Ireland team manager in 2005 before moving to his current position where he is responsible for logistics and planning for all Irish representative teams.