Traditions need to be preserved

Lions skipper Paul O'Connell intends to do the famous red jersey proud when he leads the tourists in South Africa this summer. [more]

Paul O'Connell

Lions skipper Paul O’Connell intends to do the famous red jersey proud when he leads the tourists in South Africa this summer.

The Munster second row is fully aware of the history and tradition s that accompany the Lions and he is determined to ensure the class of 2009 live up to expectations.

"I think it’s important that when the players wear the jersey on this tour, they live up to the tradition and the history of the jersey," said O’Connell, after the Lions arrived in the Republic ahead of their 10-match tour starting this coming Saturday.

"I think when you look back at some of the players that have worn the British & Irish Lions jersey down the years, they were great players. 

"Maybe in 2005 we didn’t live up to that. A lot of things went against us on the tour and at the same time I don’t think we did the tradition proud. I think for me personally, looking back at 2005 is a big motivation.

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"I know for a few other guys that were on the tour, it’s the same thing. Living up to the tradition of the jersey is a big thing for us. A lot of us when we play for our clubs give everything and I think the same thing applies when we play for the Lions." 

The chance to make amends for the disappointments of four years ago arrives as early as this Saturday, when the Lions kick-off their 2009 tour against a Royal XV in Rustenberg.

O’Connell says that preparation for this weekend’s fixture, and for the tour as a whole, have gone as well as possible, despite pre-tour injuries to the likes of Tomas O’Leary, Tom Shanklin, Jerry Flannery and Leigh Halfpenny.

The 29-year-old believes that the much-talked about Lions team spirit is already well established and that now the focus must turn to producing the goods on the field of play itself.

"I think there’s a big buzz," added O’Connell.

"We had a great week last week. Everyone’s out on the pitch at the same time, everyone’s in the gym at the same time, everyone’s in and around the training ground at the same time. I think there’s a lot of good friendships being made, a lot of characters emerging already and that’s going to be a big thing for us. 

"I said a week ago that the talent is there in the group, the coaching is there in the group and now it’s up to us to perform as a team."

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