Brian O’Driscoll is looking forward to linking up with Jamie Roberts when the British & Irish Lions take on a combined New South Wales and Queensland Country XV on Tuesday, four years after the pair combined so effectively in South Africa.
O’Driscoll and Roberts played together four times in 2009, forming a hugely successful midfield pairing and starting both the first and second Tests against the Springboks before concussion and a broken wrist brought their series’ to a premature end.
Now they link up again for the first time in 2013, after Roberts partnered Jonathan Davies in Hong Kong and O’Driscoll joined forces with Manu Tuilagi in Perth.
“Jamie and I hit it off well four years ago. We clicked quite early on in training and we managed to do so in games. It will be nice to hopefully pick up where we left off in that second Test,” said O’Driscoll.
“Sometimes you just find those situations where there are certain players that you gel quickly with. We managed to do that.
“We got off on a good footing against the Golden Lions in South Africa. We understood each other well at training and it worked out well in games, and it just grew from there.
“We get on well off the pitch as well as on it and I’m sure that doesn’t do our relationship on the pitch any harm. I’m looking forward to getting that relationship going again.”
The bluntest of observers will suggest that O’Driscoll will bring the brains and Roberts the brawn when they combine in Newcastle in game four but the veteran Irishman doesn’t see it that way.
Instead he believes Roberts has a far more rounded game than some people give him credit for, with the Welshman boasting the kind of skill set that should create plenty of space for O’Driscoll at Hunter Stadium.
“It’s exciting playing with a guy who is as strong a ball carrier as he is,” added O’Driscoll, who will captain The Lions for the second time on this tour.
“But again, similarly to what I said about Manu, he’s got a great range to his game.
“Everyone sees his size, but he’s a good distributor, a good off-loader, clever in defence and he reads things well. He’s got a huge amount to his game and I really enjoy playing alongside him.
"When you play Australia and Australian teams you really have to try and out-think them a lot of the time. It's another factor to the game besides trying to outmuscle them and be more physical, you often have to be tactically quite astute both in attack and defensively."
O’Driscoll is itching to get back into the action after missing yesterday’s win over the Reds in Brisbane having started against the Force last Wednesday.
The 34-year-old, who is now on his fourth tour – only Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson have been on more – admits it was hard to watch from the sidelines at the Suncorp Stadium but that he was delighted to see his team mates leave Queensland with a hard-fought victory.
“It’s hard sitting out any game. It’s nearly as exhausting – but not quite – watching games as it is playing in them.I’m glad to be pulling the jersey back on again.
“That was exactly what we were looking for last night: a hard, physical game. I have no doubt that those sort of games do stand you in good stead.”