Brian O’Driscoll calls on team-mates to produce ‘80 minutes of their lives’
Leinster and Irish player desperately wants to be part of a Lions Test series win at the fourth time of asking
Brian O’Driscoll says Lions will lift themselves for one big final effort in this weekend’s series decider.
As much as anyone, Brian O’Driscoll desperately wants to be a part of a Lions Test series win at the fourth time of asking. Accordingly, no one looked more down in the dumps in the aftermath of coming within five minutes of ticking that box on Saturday. But come tomorrow, after a couple of down days, he’ll be leading the charge, not least, on the presumption he’s picked, he’ll almost certainly be captain.
In Noosa on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the one-point second Test defeat, despite a restorative dip in the sea, O’Driscoll was a far cry from the upbeat, optimistic figure he cut the day before the first Test in Brisbane, even if he spoke with his customary commonsense. But then again, perhaps a downbeat mood should be expected. There would be something wrong if the Lions, and O’Driscoll especially, weren’t still feeling the raw pain of the Melbourne defeat for a day or two.
“You have to have a little bit of a mourning period after any loss, but the spirits of the guys have been picked up. It’s just being able to unwind a little bit to build up again for Saturday. It is important to be able to feel the disappointment because if you try to banish it immediately it will come back to you, and it still does at times throughout the day. You kind of think how scenarios could be different, having a series in the bag rather than one still to go and fight for.
‘Focus on target’
“But then after a couple of days you just have to have the ability to shelve it and focus on the target. One more 80 minutes this season is all that is asked of everyone in the squad, the 80 minutes of their lives.”
A couple of down days away from the thousands of Lions fans in Australia may even be for the best, and O’Driscoll maintained that the fifth week of the tour, ie the second Test week, was more of a challenge to the squad given many of those in the non-match day 23 probably felt their tour was over.
“But I have been unbelievably impressed with the whole squad, the manner in which they have carried themselves. It’s all for the betterment of the team, not about the individual. That is what I like about this squad – we are still pretty tight and we all want the common goal, irrespective of who is in that 23 and who are the lucky ones.”
Almost no one in the squad will feel sure of his place, including O’Driscoll. “Particularly when you have lost a game, I imagine every place is up for scrutiny, at least, as to whether the person deserves to be in the jersey again, and when you don’t win it is all the more so,” admitted O’Driscoll. “I won’t go chewing my nails off thinking about it, I will go with the flow like everyone else does. Hopefully, I will be included in that team. If I am not, I will deal with that if the situation arises.”
He also maintained there was more of a momentum shift following Australia’s series-levelling win in Melbourne a dozen years ago, when the Wallabies won by 34-15, as opposed to a brace of Tests decided by two and one-point margins. “I think the team that turns up on Saturday and gets some momentum from early in the game, will get the upper hand.”
That seemed a particularly pertinent point given how the first two Tests panned out, and given that the Lions are now in their 11th month of the British and Irish season – not including pre-season. A dozen years ago, the Lions failed to score a single point in the final quarters of all three Tests. On this tour the Lions haven’t scored a try in the final 20 minutes of the four biggest games on tour, against Australia (losing the last quarters 3-6 and 3-7) and the Reds (outscored by 3-5 in the last 20).