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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

O'Driscoll aims to keep it simple while chasing new high at Suncorp

12 years on from his watershed display at The Gabba, the centre unveiled the gameplan needed for a repeat result.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

A GOOD GAMEPLAN is a necessity at any level, but Brian O’Driscoll has seen enough playbooks get torn up to not get too hung up on details.

The veteran centre lines up as a test starter for the seventh time in his fourth Lions tour later today.

His longevity doesn’t need underlining, and he won’t thank you for pointing out the age gaps, but when George North admits that his earliest Lions memory is watching O’Driscoll tear up The Gabba in 2001, it’s enough to make anyone check for grey hairs.

Since that 13-29 victory however, O’Driscoll’s experiences with the amalgamated side have gone downhill. He’s long past winning friends these days.

“It is a test high, it’s the only one I’ve won in six.” he says with typical frankness. “I want to add to it, I don’t want to be someone that has had a lot of appearances, but not won a series. That’s what it has come down to.

“Talk about the fun and gelling together and everything – in the end this tour is everything – if we won the tour I’d take that above getting on great and becoming great friends. That’s not what this is about. This is about winning a series.”

Doing that, he says, requires looking no further than your next collision, and putting yourself in the best possible position to come out on top of it.

“I think it’ll be more than a battle of will. It’ll be a battle of the breakdown.

“It’s a pretty simple game we play: You win the tackle contest – whether you’re carrying or defending – and you’ve a good chance of winning the game.

“When you simplify it to that degree you understand the importance of the contact area. We have to go after that and try to make sure we’re able to dominate it. The rest of the game is able to play off that.

“When you’re on front-foot ball, gaps start appearing. When you’re on the back foot, defensive lines get the upper hand and you have to play a different type of game.

“I don’t think the will will be enough. We have to play with smarts as well to get us across the line.”

Craving that Lions drug

Many things have changed in the dozen years since O’Driscoll was without a Lions cap – he says “I’d have died two weeks ago” if the 2001 training methods were still being inflicted on his 34-year-old body – but the ex-captain insists the value of the red Lions jersey remains as high as ever.

“You see it in the new guys, the guys that are first-time Lions. One hit of it isn’t enough.If you can get a second or third hit, you crave that.

“You can see it in the disappointment of the guys selected. This is the ultimate for a British or Irish player. The honour of playing in that jersey – It’s a very, very special jersey. You see away sides coming in, but you’ve never seen a Lions player going into an away jersey swapping a jersey.

“I think that says it all about the respect that the jersey holds.”

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

With his Leinster and Ireland contract extended to next summer, the centre has given himself a chance of adding to his medal collection for club and country. Right now, he can only see the gaps in his collection though. The two honours that still elude him, one of which will be an itch left unscratched.

“I’m not going to be involved in any more World Cups.” He says, ruefully adding: “That would’ve been a big shout, to win a World Cup for Ireland. That apart, the only attainable thing that I haven’t won is a Lions series.

“I dearly want to be part of that for my own sake and also for the Lions’ sake. I think we need to win one of these soon. Let’s hope it starts tomorrow.”

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