Brian O’Driscoll is urging British & Irish Lions fans to recreate the Sea of Red that rode through Brisbane the last time the tourists were in town.
The first Test win over the Qantas Wallabies at The Gabba 12 years ago remains one of the most memorable moments in 125 years of Lions history, and not just for the manner in which Graham Henry’s men romped home.
While Martin Johnson and co gave an inspired performance on the field, the thousands upon thousands of supporters who packed the stands produced an even better showing off it. And with kick off in the opening rubber in the same city now just two hours away, the only survivor from that side that shone so brightly back in 2001 is hoping for a repeat scenario at the Suncorp Stadium.
“The fans could play a huge role for us. It genuinely felt like a home game that day. We ran out and it was like three quarters red. It gives you an extra spring in your step,” said O’Driscoll.
“It gives you an added incentive when you know they are roaring you on, roaring your every positive move. It can be that extra little bit of inspiration you need to have the game of your life.
“Getting that surprise aspect of running out and seeing that sea of red was great. Let's hope we get something similar. We don't want to expect too much, but our fair share of red would be good.”
O’Driscoll hasn’t tasted victory in any of his five Lions Test appearances that have followed that famous night at The Gabba but he insists he is confident of ending that losing streak this evening.
The Lions have won five of their six warm-up matches in Hong Kong and Australia and 20 of tonight’s 23-man squad featured in last Saturday’s 47-17 win over the Waratahs.
The 34-year-old says the mood within the Lions camp is exactly what he would want it to be and he hopes that unity and spirit will have a positive effect on performance levels on the biggest stage of all.
“The mood is really good. There is great togetherness. We are enjoying each other's company and we are having fun together,” added O’Driscoll.
“We have built well. We obviously had the little hiccup on Tuesday, and you have to use those situations to try to galvanise the side. We spoke after that, and the only way of reacting to a defeat like that is to go out (and produce) in your next performance, which just happens to be the first Test.
“I think the coaching staff have really got it right with the amount of training we've done. They've been short, sharp, intense sessions. The last thing you need to do is flog the boys at the end of a long season. I would like to think we are well prepped for the game and pretty united as a squad. We are in a good place.”
O’Driscoll was just 22 when he scored a stunning solo try on his Lions Test debut here in ’01 but he returns to Brisbane for an incredible fourth tour with 131 international caps to his name.
That experience should stand the star centre in good stead at a sold-out Suncorp and he admits that staying as relaxed as possible will be the key to producing another outstanding display.
“I would be hopeful it would be a little bit less stressful this time around. I've been there a couple of times, and I have seen different types of results. From knowing what to expect a little bit more, hopefully I will be able to be a bit more relaxed and have a little bit of calm. For those who haven't been there before, the responsibility lies on those senior players just to make sure everyone is nice and relaxed.
“I am not one to ever really dwell on things and the enormity of the occasion. I try to let the moment happen. There is always time for reflection, whether it be when you are on your holidays or, hopefully more so, when you have retired.
“Essentially, this is just another rugby match. It's a big rugby match, but you can't concern yourself with the enormity of what is at stake or how many people are watching. All you can do is go out and play your game and focus on that. That is probably the best bit of advice I received and that I would hand in.”