June International Tours

Hastings backs O’Driscoll to lead Lions in South Africa

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Scotland legend Gavin Hastings believes a revitalised Brian O’Driscoll is the strongest candidate to lead the British and Irish Lions to victory in South Africa next year.


Hastings, now an ambassador for Lions sponsors HSBC, said O’Driscoll’s return to form for Leinster this season makes him the obvious choice to lead a touring party looking to emulate the 1997 Lions, who won their series in South Africa 2-1.


“You have to pick someone who is respected by his peers and who is likely to have a regular starting berth in the team and, for me, Brian is that man,” the former fullback said.


Hastings, a 61-cap international and a veteran of two Lions tours, was deeply impressed by O’Driscoll’s sparkling display in Leinster’s European Cup win in Edinburgh at the weekend.


He added: “You need to pick players who are in form, and following his performance for Leinster at the weekend, if you were to ask me to pick a captain now, it would be Brian O’Driscoll.


“If the Lions are to be successful this time around, you need players with strength of character and guys to lay down the law.


“If you look back at the last successful Lions tour in 1997, coaches like Jim Telfer and players such as Keith Wood were excellent at laying down what was required. It’s all about getting the best from the players and Brian would be a fantastic man to do that.”


Hastings also warned that the Lions would have to learn lessons from the ill-fated 2005 tour of New Zealand, where they lost O’Driscoll to a spear tackle early in the first match against the All Blacks and went on to lose all three Tests.


“Finding a blend is absolutely key — you are trying to put 15 guys together who haven’t played together ever, starting afresh and asking them to perform with all the history and tradition,” Hastings added.


“Sir Clive Woodward took too many players in 2005 to form any kind of unit but (2009 coach) Ian McGeechan is too shrewd and too steeped in Lions history to make the same mistake.


“You look at the guys who played in the successful 1997 tour, such as Tom Smith, Jeremy Davidson, Keith Wood, they bonded as a team and that made all the difference.


“Geech is sure to repeat that trick this time around and will certainly pick those who are performing at the right time, and not those with the reputations – for me, that’s the key.”


Rugbyweek.com

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