‘Win it for Brian’

Rob Howley was in the thick of the action 12 years ago when the British & Irish Lions last met the Qantas Wallabies in Melbourne. [more]

‘Win it for Brian’

Rob Howley was in the thick of the action 12 years ago when the British & Irish Lions last met the Qantas Wallabies in Melbourne.

And the haunting memories of that great ‘missed opportunity’ came flooding back to him this week when his team mate that day, Brian O’Driscoll, addressed the 2013 squad.

The Lions had won 29-13 in Brisbane, with an O’Driscoll wonder try, and led 11-6 at half-time in the second Test. The second half turned into a rout, with the Wallabies scoring 29 points to three and winning by a record 35-14 margin.

“Brian has been hugely influential. You learn from the experiences he had back in 2001 and he spoke to the group about what he experienced then after we did analysis on Thursday,” said Lions assistant coach, Howley.

“That’s 12 years ago and if there is one player who deserves it more than anyone else it is Brian O’Driscoll. He has been fantastic northern hemisphere rugby and for world rugby, but it just shows how hard it is to win a Test series.

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“When he spoke the hairs on the back of my neck pricked up because there was an opportunity just before half-time in Melbourne in 2001 when we broke through and we didn’t take it.

“That’s what it will come down to on Saturday – being ruthless and clinical when those moments present themselves. We have to take them. Brian talked about those experiences and doing everything you possibly can between now and kick-off to prepare.

It was just the edge, the conversation the group could re-focus on. Training was excellent, we are aware of the Wallaby strengths and it is going to be one hell of a Test match.

“I never had the opportunity again as a player – they don’t come around too often. Just look at Brian. He has won the Six Nations, a Grand Slam and the Heineken Cup and yet the one trophy that is missing is winning a Lions series.

“When he spoke it brought memories flooding back for me but, more importantly, it sent a message to the players that lets not have any regrets over the next 24/48 hours. Let’s make sure we do everything we can to make sure it happens the way we want it to happen. We can influence that.”

Standing between O’Driscoll and his dream will be a Wallaby side that came within one kick of winning in Brisbane despite having to undergo major change on the field due to injuries. They will remember 2001 for different reason and will be hoping to rekindle the spirit of John Eales, George Gregan, Owen Finnegan and Matt Burke.

“Backs against the wall, wounded Wallaby, high risk, high reward – they are going to come out and play. You talk about 80 games of one minute, that’s the concentration levels you will need and the trust and unity you have in attack and defence,” added Howley.

“There will be key moments on Saturday and I think it is about the team that takes its opportunities. That’s Test match football. The players are really looking forward to it. They have been overwhelmed by the support they have had out here and they just want to get on with it. It’s going to be a long 24 hours.

“There is an attitude to go 2-0 and that has been very evident in the week. It has been spoken about and, as Brian said, you have to seize the moment and take the opportunity.

“We are 1-0 up and we can put Australia to bed on Saturday night. That’s our goal and that’s our mind set. Momentum is huge in international sport and the players have spoken about that, while still being respectful of what we expect from this Australian side. They are going to come out and play and it is going to be a great Test match.”

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