Brian O’Driscoll says his reputation will count for nothing in Australia even though he is set to captain the British & Irish Lions against the Western Force on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old centre will skipper the side in their first game on Australian soil at Patersons Stadium as he becomes just the third player to have featured on four Lions tours.
O’Driscoll has become one of the world’s leading lights over his stellar 14-year international career but he insists that doesn’t hold any weight when it comes to earning a Test spot against the Qantas Wallabies later this month.
“Reputations don’t count for anything,” said O’Driscoll, who saw Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts produce standout performances in midfield in Saturday’s win over the Barbarians.
“We’re very, very strong in the centre.
“The two boys played well in very difficult conditions. Now the baton is passed to myself and Manu (Tuilagi) to try and stake our claim.”
That claim begins in Perth when The Lions take on Australia’s westernmost franchise, with O’Driscoll wearing No13 and Tuilagi No12 in a partnership that, from the outside at least, appears to combine brains with brawn.
But O’Driscoll insists that his midfield colleague offers far more than just a physical threat and he expects that to become apparent when the 22-year-old makes his Lions debut this week.
“It’s a very exciting prospect playing with him. He’s got a really good range to his game,” added O’Driscoll.
“People see the strong ball-carrier in him and destructive tackler when he makes contact, but he has an array of skills that probably don’t get the credit they deserve.
“It’s definitely an exciting feeling partnering him and I’m looking forward to our first outing.”
O’Driscoll’s aim in that first outing is to continue the momentum built in Hong Kong at the weekend and to ensure The Lions hit their straps early on in OZ.
He knows better than most that starting strongly is vital if the tourists are to have any chance of claiming a first series success since 1997 and if he is to have any chance of playing a major part in that triumph.
“You tend not to be able to tip away and then get to the Test series and be phenomenal – that’s a rarity.
“You’ve got to really work towards building your game plan, building your defensive system, building your picking game and all the different dimensions of your game so that, when you do get to the Tests, they’re at a very high level and you’re able to try and kick it on to the next level.
“That’s very difficult if you’re stuttering and starting in the first five or six games.”