Brian O’Driscoll is arguably the greatest player of his generation across all four Home Nations but the veteran centre doesn’t believe he will be ‘properly remembered’ unless he adds series success with the British & Irish Lions to his lengthy list of achievements.
O’Driscoll may have won a Grand Slam, four Triple Crowns, three Heineken Cups, three Celtic League titles, the U19 World Cup and 131 international caps but he hasn’t yet tasted glory with The Lions.
He came agonisingly close when Britain and Ireland’s elite were last in Australia 12 years ago but saw his second tour ended just a few minutes into the first Test against the All Blacks in 2005 and then suffered more heartbreak in Durban and Pretoria before injury robbed him of a place in the side that stunned the Springboks in their most recent outing four years ago.
"You've got to win a series to be properly remembered,” said O’Driscoll.
"It's true – Matt Dawson made contact, congratulating me, and I said 'Yeah, it's probably about time I won one of these – I've certainly had enough cracks at it'.
“Until you win a series it's difficult to place yourself in that elite group of great Lions players. It's not enough to produce one-off performances or be nearly-men.
“I've talked to Matt about that dummy-over-the-head pass that secured the first Test win in South Africa (in 1997). How many times have people spoken to Scott Gibbs about his big hit on Os Du Randt? These moments are timeless – but they're only timeless because of the victory that followed.
“To be considered a great and a custodian of Lions rugby you have to achieve that success. So here comes another opportunity to join that elite group.
“The great thing about another opportunity is that there are no boundaries to what you can achieve. I'm the eternal optimist and go down with the thought that we can absolutely win a series.”
O’Driscoll says his most recent Lions experience was his most enjoyable thanks to the unique bond the class of 2009 established in South Africa.
The Lions may have lost the series but they returned home having restored a great deal of pride in the red jersey and having made lifelong friends along the way.
O’Driscoll is convinced a similar ethos will prevail in Australia – but this time he believes it can be accompanied by the ultimate crowning glory.
“The 2009 Tour was the most enjoyable for sure. We had such a harmonious and tight bond,” added O’Driscoll.
“We probably gained back a little bit of the belief in what The Lions was about by creating such a great series, albeit we lost 2-1.
"They were keenly contested games and could have gone either way, which was important coming off the back of a 3-0 loss to the All Blacks in 2005.
“But I love Australia as a country and enjoy touring there most. In 2001 we probably trained too hard and that caught up with us in the end.
“I'm excited, and I’m looking forward most to training with The Lions. It's like a mini-game every day because the skill levels are so high. I love playing with guys who have the ability to think a couple of phases ahead and see opportunities that others at a lesser level aren't capable of doing.
“We've got great balance and the competition in the back row, centre, halfback and front row proves our quality. The Australian media came out with these quotes about 'slabs of meat', but they're going to be unpleasantly shocked by the calibre and range of our skills.”