O’Driscoll urges first-timers to put themselves out there on Lions Tour

Buy in to the Lions concept and put yourself out there - that's the message from four-time British & Irish Lion Brian O'Driscoll to the 41 players selected for this summer's Tour to New Zealand. [more]

O’Driscoll urges first-timers to put themselves out there on Lions Tour

Buy in to the Lions concept and put yourself out there – that’s the message from four-time British & Irish Lion Brian O’Driscoll to the 41 players selected for this summer’s Tour to New Zealand.

Now a regular on the rugby analysis circuit, including an Ambassador role with Lions sponsor Thomas Pink, the legendary Irish centre was Tour captain the last time the Lions faced the All Blacks, back in 2005.

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But it was in a coffee shop in Australia four years earlier that he first felt he really understood the concept of the Lions.
There are 25 players heading for their first Tour this time around – and O’Driscoll still remembers the moment back in 2001 when he fully embraced becoming a Lion.
He recalled: “As soon as you shed your nationality and become a Lion, I think that lends itself better to a good atmosphere on and off the pitch.
“It happened very quickly on Tours two, three and four. On the first, probably a week or ten days in I found myself out for a cup of coffee with a group of lads.
“We’d gone out for a stroll and a coffee and half an hour, 40 minutes in I realised I was the only Irish guy there. So that’s probably when it struck home for me.
“You have to embrace the Lions Tour. I would say get out of your comfort zone, don’t just stick to the crew that you are comfortable with.
“The strength of the squad is the togetherness and the bond that you build so the only way of doing that is to put yourself out there a little bit more.
“You need great togetherness down there. New Zealand, especially on a Lions Tour, can be a bit of a goldfish bowl so you’ve got to be a tight unit. You have to find yourself connecting with guys that you don’t necessarily know that well.
“That happens when you’re rooming with people from different countries. Immediately you’ve got another pal that’s looking out for your best needs, making sure that you’re wearing the right thing, that you’re on time for meetings and so forth.
“So you have a ready-made buddy and they link you in with their friends and who they hang out with so it tends to happens relatively organically.”

Click here for the official 41-man Lions squad
Having retired in 2014, this will be the first Lions Tour since 1997 that does not involve O’Driscoll, but that didn’t stop him keeping a keen eye on the squad announcement yesterday.

Inevitably on a day when 41 players were selected, much of the focus was on those who missed out.
According to O’Driscoll, that is simply a sign of the strength in depth of quality at Head Coach Warren Gatland’s disposal as they aim to be the first Lions squad to win a Test series in New Zealand since 1971.
He added: “On the whole it looks like a good squad. The strength in depth is far more evident when you are picking 41 and yet I could rattle off ten names who could also have found themselves in the squad.
“There’s always going to be some disappointments and you become quite parochial in your need to have your own in the squad.”
After weeks of deliberations and discussions, Gatland and his coaching team finally came to a consensus on Tuesday afternoon, and for O’Driscoll the inclusion of Ireland centre or full-back Jared Payne was one of the pleasant surprises.
He explained: “I think Jared Payne is a great selection. He’s a very clever footballer. He has the versatility of playing 13 and at full-back, he’s got the ability to communicate on the pitch and pull it all together.

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“Defensively he’s incredibly sound and really smart. Maybe not many people saw that coming, I didn’t see it coming to be honest, but I think he’s a good selection.

“Having played against him and knowing what he can bring, no-one is a sure thing in that backline.
Whether Payne can force his way into the Test side remains to be seen. But for O’Driscoll, what is certain is that he and the other 24 Lions newcomers have to embrace the experience.
He concluded: “You need to enjoy it. You need to remember it’s a Tour you’re there to have fun on. There are parts of New Zealand that are really beautiful but they will also be seeing a lot of hotels and training pitches in areas that not many fans will be frequenting so you have to enjoy the whole package that goes with it.
“It’s a very special time to be a Lion. And touring the most difficult place to tour, down in New Zealand, if you’re having fun you are going to be playing better rugby.”
Brian O’Driscoll is a Thomas Pink Ambassador. Find out how you can meet Brian at a special Thomas Pink event in Jermyn Street, London on Tuesday, April 25. 

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