O’Driscoll must lead the Lions in Australia next summer

Brian O’Driscoll’s considered words in the immediate aftermath of Leinster’s Heineken Cup triumph cut through the chaos of his teammates’ deserved celebrations nicely. Articulate and precise, they also spoke volumes for his esteemed character.

Applauding his province for developing a “dynasty,” the veteran centre bore pride in an immense achievement. Outlining the contribution of injured absentees Eoin O’Malley and Luke Fitzgerald, there was a sympathetic, human touch. Most tellingly though, O’Driscoll expressed his desire to continue the happiest of habits – winning.

Even at the grand old age of 33, the Dubliner is not finished yet, a fact everyone should be extremely glad about. After all, on the substantial evidence of a fantastic Saturday evening at Twickenham, he has plenty more to offer. Throughout Leinster’s 42-14 win over Ulster, their most seasoned international was sublime. Defying human physiology even to take his place on the pitch – remarkably he underwent keyhole surgery on his knee just eight days previously – O’Driscoll produced something close to his world-beating best.

There were deft passes to keep his backline purring and demonic tackles to shackle his impressive opposite number Darren Cave. A back-handed offload to Sean O’Brien to incite Cian Healy’s try was otherworldly. The odd turnover also cropped up – testament to incredible strength and stealth, especially amid the heady atmosphere of knockout rugby. It was an all-round display that left me clutching for hyperbolae. I have now given up, so here is a statement that defines O’Driscoll’s enduring authority: he needs to captain the 2013 British Lions tour to Australia.

My reasoning is almost certainly influenced by the experience of being surrounded by 82,000 screaming Irishmen at the weekend – something from which my senses are still recovering. However, the Dubliner gets my unwavering vote. For a start, his ability to coax his teammates to their potential is outstanding. Rampaging flanker O’Brien was the official man-of-the-match at the weekend and either Jonny Sexton or Rob Kearney will certainly take the ERC European Player of the Year award, but confidence and fearlessness filters down from the top. O’Driscoll has instilled it.

Phenomenal flanker Sam Warburton appears the pundits’ choice to lead the Lions Down Under, but his battle with Aussie openside David Pocock will require a monstrous amount of energy. Better to release the shackles of media responsibility and team selection so that the young Welshman can fully concentrate on the pivotal breakdown war. Besides, O’Driscoll seems to thrive on the other stuff. Nit-pickers may point to Ireland’s failings on the international stage in recent years. A ‘golden generation’ of exceptional players has failed to deliver anything more than a solitary Grand Slam in 2009. When the World Cup has rolled around, they have been nothing more than underwhelming also-rans.

Undeniably, O’Driscoll has been at the hub of these excruciating failings but it is more significant to examine what his absence does to teams. Take the disastrous mauling of Sir Clive Woodward’s 2005 Lions in New Zealand after their captain had been spear-tackle-assassinated by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu, for example. Look at how meek Ireland were in this years’ Six Nations.

A great deal can happen over 12 years in sport. Back in 2001, Graham Henry gave a O’Driscoll the chance to announce himself at The Gabba in Brisbane. With an amazing showing including an electric assist and scorching 60-metres score, the fresh-faced 22 year-old did exactly that. Very loudly.

That the Lions were beaten in that series – and the subsequent two also – makes their return to the southern hemisphere next summer hugely important. Whoever is at the helm will need a battle-hardened edge to go with a host of personal accolades. For mine, that has to be O’Driscoll. There is life in the old BOD yet.

by Charlie Morgan

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11 comments on “O’Driscoll must lead the Lions in Australia next summer

  1. Utter nonsense. The argument saying that team’s were rubbish without him (05 Lions were poor with him too) when you’ve just outlined that he “has been at the hub of these excruciating failings” doesn’t make sense. In summary Ireland and the Lions (05) have generally been poor with and without him. Leinster have been excellent both with and without him. Therefore I don’t think there are any conclusions to be drawn about his captaincy at all.

  2. I think the argument about whether teams play better with him or without him is a little thin, but it’s an interesting discussion. Is he the best centre option for the Lions? That’s probably the first thing to consider, and Roberts / Davies / Tuilagi might have something to say about it.

    Would be good to have a player like BOD fit and in the mix though, so let’s see if he comes through next season – perhaps with an Ireland Grand Slam and a 3rd Heineken Cup in a row?!

  3. We all seen BOD in the 09 tour carrying various niggling injuries that accumulate to something not many rugby players could endure. BOD playing with Roberts was one of the highlights of the 09 tour, yes Roberts went off form and BOD had his robocop style reconstruction work to get him back out on the field. I agree BOD brings a fear factor with him, Ireland aren’t the same team without him. Ireland may have bad spells and good spells with him in tenure but that’s due to other circumstances than just BOD, Irelands lack of depth is a whole new feature.

    In my opinion BOD should go and he should be captain, either way if he isn’t captain he will be one of the men leading the charge. As mentioned by Hutch above is he the best outside centre at the moment? Davies and Tuilagi are making a good claim. I guess it will come down to form before and during the tour although could you picture BOD not being in the 22 for a test?

  4. I am one of BOD’s biggest fans. He is one of the greatest players the northern hemisphere has ever seen. I would love the Lions to be his swansong. Should he be captain? I think he shouldnt. Here is my argument.

    I don’t think he has hit the heights for Ireland expected of him recently, perhaps too much is expected and is slightly weighed down by the captaincy. Look at his performances at the World Cup and compare his performances for Leinster where he is clearly a leader but does not captain the side. Also not his performances for the Lions in 09. He was exceptional.

    I think he is not guaranteed a starting spot for the Lions next year. Tuilagi will give him a run for his money. I hope to god that they take BOD next year if he is on form. But i think his role in the squad should be one as player who just needs to concentrate first and foremost on getting in the team. To have such a player in the team and around on the tour with so much experience can only be a benefit. Someone like Warburton (he if fit will be a definite starter) can lean on if needed.

    Let BOD get his form and fitness sorted and let him carve magic without the pressure and expectancy of the captaincy.

  5. I don’t agree with BOD being captain. It’s time to usher in the next generation. He would happily play rugby into his 40′s if he could but eventually physics of aging plays a roll. I’d rather see a younger captain. I can’t help but wish he would retire. Probably the greatest center of all time, so maybe a 3rd Heineken cup in 3 years is the way for him to bow out but he’s as hungry as ever, in the way only he can be. I’m sure he’s looking to the Winter tests with salivation. Of Ireland’s current lot, I think O’Brien (last years ERC player of the year), Ferris, Kearney (deserved 2012 ERC player of the year), Sexton, Heaslip, and Healy would be the only sure bets. You could make arguments for Bowe, Earls, O’Gara and others of course.

  6. Lions isnt really about younger generations though is it? It’s about taking the guys who are hot at that moment in time. The most in form players in Britain in Ireland in the year of 2013. That should be the only consideration. Apart form taking one uncapped player as a tour tradition. Its about winning 2/3 tests and thats all it boils down too. If they lose all other games the tour will still be considered a success. Im not bothered about the Lions 2017. I want the Lions 2013 to win.

  7. As an all time great whose only fault, from my perspective, is he enjoys beating England too much and does it too often, I hope he stays fit and makes the tour. I’m not sure about captaincy though, durability being a concern. We want a captain who can go for every minute of each test.

  8. It’s a bit unrealistic to judge on club form. As good as Leinster are, O’brien, Heaslip and Ferris have struggled against the Welsh back row in their last few meetings and the Irish back line have also struggled against the size of their Welsh counterparts. Leinster haven’t faced a 15 that have tested all these question marks. Before we get ahead of ourselves we must remember – even as high a standard the ERC is – top class international rugby is tougher.

    • I think you may have that backwards there buddy. Leinster are augmented slightly by the likes of Strauss and especially Nacewa, managed by Schmidt (far better than Kidney). I think you may have just woke up to find that club teams are better or perhaps u still don’t get it so I’ll explain it in simpler terms:

      That Leinster team would demolish the Irish 1st team. Just imagine there are cloned copies of Kearney and O’Brien, and Sexton etc. on both sides but it’s Leinster Vs. Ireland: It would be a very one-sided match – that’s how good Leinster are. I know Welsh team,s are struggling in the HC, so you’ll see a lot of Welsh people knock the competition. I think Ospreys could be contenders next year, but I ‘d bet ANY money that that Leinster team would beat Wales in dry weather. In the wet, Wales could take it.