Davies hails O’Driscoll as one of the greats

Welsh centre pays a nice tribute to the man he’ll replace in Saturday’s third test

British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies  answers questions from journalists during a media conference in Sydney.   Photograph: David Gray/Reuters.

British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies answers questions from journalists during a media conference in Sydney. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters.


Brian O’Driscoll was today hailed as “one of the greats” by the player who will wear his trademark number 13 jersey against Australia on Saturday.

Ireland centre O’Driscoll had been expected to start his ninth British and Irish Lions Test — and take over as captain from an injured Sam Warburton — until head coach Warren Gatland dropped a selection bombshell.

Fit-again Jamie Roberts was called into the Lions midfield, with Roberts’ regular Wales midfield partner Jonathan Davies moving to outside centre. O’Driscoll did not even make the bench.

Davies, though, has acclaimed the 34-year-old, whose fourth — and undoubtedly final — Lions tour of duty will end with him watching from the stands, rather than tormenting Australia’s defence. “What he (O’Driscoll) has achieved in the game, no other might do,” Davies said.

“He has been a great player. He might not like me saying it, but I’ve grown up watching him play. “I have admired his work, and to have been able to play with him was very special. I have admiration for the man and a lot of respect.

“Brian is one of the greats because of what he’s achieved in the game. I was very grateful to him for coming up and congratulating me. Everyone who isn’t involved on Saturday has shown a professional attitude. That’s been one of the positives of the tour.”

Davies arguably travelled to Australia a month ago with only an outside chance of a Test place, but he will end the tour this weekend by securing membership of an exclusive club.

Only six players — Davies, full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing George North, fly-half Jonathan Sexton, prop Adam Jones and lock Alun-Wyn Jones — will head home having started all three Tests. “Obviously, that was like the dream,” added 25-year-old Davies, reflecting on his achievement.

“We’ve done so well over the last few weeks to gel as a group and come together. It’s important now that we finish it. It’s do or die on Saturday. Beforehand, the boys spoke about it (Lions) being the best rugby environment to be a part of in their career, and it has certainly lived up to that for me.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. It has been great to be a part of. We’ve been welcomed everywhere we’ve been, and the importance of the Lions to everyone is shown. I am just very humble to be involved as a small part of it.

“The magnitude and importance of the game on Saturday just drives you on. Everyone’s attitude and energy in training has been fantastic, and all the boys are ready to go.

“One of the things I’ve worked on in the last few years is making sure when the pressure is on you are able to deliver. It is slowly coming together and, on the whole, I am reasonably pleased with my form, but I want to keep pushing myself forward.”

Davies, meanwhile, has rejected any suggestion the Lions might lack leaders in Saturday’s Test decider after losing Warburton and Paul O’Connell through injury, while also being without O’Driscoll.

And the 36 times-capped Scarlets star also believes first-time Lions Test skipper Alun-Wyn Jones will prove a seamless choice as skipper. “By his performances on tour, he (Jones) has led from the front,” Davies said.

“His work-rate is so impressive. You envy his fitness ability sometimes. “I think he will do his talking on the pitch, as did Sam. He’s a born leader, and I am looking forward to playing with him as a captain. I am sure he will do the jersey proud.

“All the boys involved have played in big games in their careers. “Some of the boys are quieter than others. Toby (Faletau) hardly says boo to a goose, but he’s played in a World Cup semi-final and Grand Slam games. He’s got experience to drive through.

“I think we have got plenty of leaders. Everyone has to deliver on Saturday. We are in the last-chance saloon. We have to win.”