O’Driscoll helpless as Lions miss their chance

Brian O'Driscoll has admitted the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand was "a lost opportunity". [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Brian O’Driscoll has admitted the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand was "a lost opportunity".

Injured captain O’Driscoll conceded that the 11-match trip will be remembered for a lost Test series, which went New Zealand’s way in emphatic fashion following a 48-18 triumph at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

O’Driscoll watched it from the sidelines with his dislocated shoulder in a sling, an injury which will be corrected with surgery when he arrives home next week.

"It is a lost opportunity, because whenever you get picked for the Lions, you are expected to go down and win Test series, whether it is against New Zealand, Australia or South Africa," he said.

"Tours are always judged on their success, and this one will go down as a disappointment, but I have felt that on my previous (Lions) experience four years ago, the enjoyment factor of this tour has been far more significant than then.

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"But it is all about winning in the end, and you just have to accept it.

"I don’t think we probably clicked as we would have anticipated, which is disappointing and frustrating.

"My over-riding disappointment is not getting the opportunity to play more than 45 seconds in the Test series, which is what you go on Lions tours for, to play the Test matches, and not to get the opportunity is a disappointment, whether you win or lose."

O’Driscoll also paid tribute to the All Blacks, who will complete a first Test series whitewash of the Lions by any team for 22 years if they win Saturday’s Auckland finale.

"When you look at the clinical way in which the All Blacks played, I don’t think any side in the world playing well would have been able to live with them," he added.

"Comparing it to (the Lions tour) four years ago, they are certainly a more difficult side to beat than Australia were."

Gareth Thomas, O’Driscoll’s successor as skipper, insists there is unfinished business next weekend.

A week after their first Test calamity, the Lions at least played with some passion and purpose in Wellington, but hopes of taking a one-sided series into a decider were smashed beyond repair.

Thomas, though, is adamant his players’ thoughts are not on the flight home, declaring: "We are going to approach next Saturday as if it was a Test match to win the series.

"At the end of the day, we can’t just go out there because the series has been lost, put on a Lions jersey and just go through the 80 minutes because the series is over.

"There is so much history and so much behind the Lions jersey. This is the pinnacle of our careers, and for us to just go out and accept another loss because we can’t win the series would be a disgrace to the jersey."

Jonny Wilkinson, meanwhile, looks certain to miss the third Test after suffering another ‘stinger’ injury in his shoulder/neck area. He went off midway through the second-half in Wellington.

It is the latest blow to affect Wilkinson, whose post-World Cup career has been seriously disrupted by repeated fitness setbacks.

Wilkinson’s recent injury history suggests that he could be sidelined for a considerable length of time, and questions will once again be raised about his long-term rugby prospects.

The injury, which causes numbness in his arm, threatens more gloom for Wilkinson, and Woodward will now rely on either Stephen Jones or Charlie Hodgson to fill the Test number 10 jersey.

The Lions’ midweek combination have finalised preparations before facing Auckland at Eden Park on Tuesday, hoping to preserve a 100% record following victories over Taranaki, Wellington, Southland and Manawatu.

But they will have their hands full, after Auckland coach Pat Lam named a side including All Blacks Joe Rokocoko, Sam Tuitupou, Steve Devine and Brad Mika.

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