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Flashback: Spear tackle ends O’Driscoll’s Test captaincy after 40 seconds

The Irishman was located by Tana Umaga and Kevan Mealamu in the opening stages and singled out for rough treatment.

Brian O'Driscoll screams in agony after his shoulder is dislocated.
Brian O'Driscoll screams in agony after his shoulder is dislocated.
Image: ©INPHO/Hannah Johnston

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL SALUTED the All Black haka as a precursor to the First Test in Christchurch on the 2005 Lions Tour to New Zealand. Jonny Wilkinson kicked off, the home side pressed and the Lions captain tackled Leon McDonald.

The television cameras followed the play but when it panned back to the scene of the right wing collision, McDonald and O’Driscoll were writhing on the turf. The Kiwi fullback was able to continue. O’Driscoll, his shoulder dislocated in a spear tackle, was not. His Test captaincy of the Lions was over after 40 seconds.

All Black captain Tana Umaga and hooker Kevan Mealamu were the perpetrators but no on-field sanctions, or later citings, were forthcoming. O’Driscoll was carted off, replaced by Will Greenwood, and the game continued. The home side streamrolled the tourists 21-3.

Former Lions Denis Hickie and Lewis Moody, and Paul O’Connell, who starts at lock against Australia on Saturday, talk to TheScore.ie about the bone-shuddering incident:

Hickie: It was pretty numbing. We couldn’t really see it. It happened so quickly; no-one saw it as it was off the ball. As a spectator you’re watching the match. The game had just started and you’re following the ball. I don’t even think there was a replay of it in the stadium. I don’t really remember much about the incident of the game but I can remember everything kicking off afterwards.

O’Connell: By the 20th minute of the First Test, we had lost Brian, Lawrence Dallaglio and Richard Hill. They were out three best players, biggest characters and three proven winners. Saying that, we came across a New Zealand team in scintillating form.

YouTube credit: EpicOB

Hickie: It was a bit of a circus, then, after that and the New Zealand media really hyped it up and were ready to rally around their team. I think most players would have been disappointed about the way it was handled by the New Zealand players in general and the reaction to it. But, it was what it was.

Everything shifted to that incident but it didn’t hide the fact that we had been well beaten. It did put a bit of a dampener on the rest of the tour and people were talking about that rather than the rugby. It was a major incident and a terrible thing to happen to any player, especially the way it did and with Brian being the tour captain.


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All Black captain Tana Umaga trains while a Lions supporter protests in the background. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Hickie: New Zealand were in a position where they couldn’t really concede it. They couldn’t concede that anything bad had happened. It developed into a real stand-off. People not saying anything or not apologising or no-one acknowledging it. People down-playing it on one side and up-playing it on another.

Moody: It was fantastic when Gareth Thomas scored the first try, early in the Second Test. He is a charismatic character and had taken over the captaincy after Brian O’Driscoll’s injury. He may have been unusual captaincy choice but he is an outstanding man. His early try meant we were in with a shout but, ultimately, it didn’t work out.”

What are your memories of the incident?

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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