June International Tours

O’Driscoll sanguine over Lions tour start



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Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll said on Sunday that he was not worried about the performance of the British and Irish Lions after they fought for a 37-25 win against the Royal XV in their South African tour opener.

Writing in the Observer, O’Driscoll – who is on tour but was not playing in Rustenburg on Saturday – said mistakes were made, but this was inevitable for a team made up of players from four countries in their first match.

“Most of the mistakes were minor, the result mainly of jitters and unfamiliarity. They will reduce in number the longer the tour goes on,” he wrote.

O’Driscoll – who this season led Ireland to the Six Nations Grand Slam, their first clean sweep in 61 years – said Saturday’s match was “a far better and more meaningful match” than against Perth in Australia eight years ago.

“There is no place in a short tour for weak opponents and the Royal XV were anything but that,” the centre, overlooked for the Lions captaincy in favour of Ireland team-mate Paul O’Connell, explained.

“There were areas we clearly have to work on, but there were also significant positives, not least bouncing back after we went 12 points behind with 12 minutes left,” added O’Driscoll, whose time as Lions captain on the 2005 tour of New Zealand was cut short by a controversial ‘spear tackle’ involving then All Black captain Tana Umaga.

O’Driscoll singled out Keith Earls for praise, despite the young centre from Ireland having a debut in the red jersey he may want to forget.

“He tried to overcompensate after an early slip, but his defence was always strong and he never tried to hide from the ball. He remains a young man with a huge future,” O’Driscoll insisted of his fellow Irish midfielder.

The tour continues with a match against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on June 3 and there are a further four fixtures before the British and Irish Lions play the first of three Tests against world champions South Africa in Durban on June 20.


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