Tuesday 17 October 2017

Lions are missing 'a Brian O'Driscoll' with X-factor to hurt All Blacks - Ronan O'Gara

 

Ronan O'Gara is confident that Sean O'Brien and the rest of the pack can really test the New Zealanders when the Test series kicks off in nine days' time. Photo: Sportsfile
Ronan O'Gara is confident that Sean O'Brien and the rest of the pack can really test the New Zealanders when the Test series kicks off in nine days' time. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ronan O'Gara is worried that the Lions have no players with the "X-factor" to hurt the All Blacks as head coach Warren Gatland was forced to delay naming his side to face the Maoris in Rotorua this weekend.

But the Racing 92 assistant coach, who enjoyed a brief stint in the Ireland national camp last week, is confident that Sean O'Brien and the rest of the pack can really test the New Zealanders when the Test series kicks off in nine days' time.

"If Sean O'Brien can get through the Test series injury-free… the two second-rows and the front-rows, if they can have a big campaign, a series win is possible," said O'Gara.

"But they're missing a Brian O'Driscoll, without a shadow of a doubt. Jonathan Davies is a really, really good player. But he can't score tries like O'Driscoll could.

"The most exciting back looks like Jonathan Joseph to me. Will he play? I don't think so."

With the exciting game-breaker Stuart Hogg now ruled out of contention, O'Gara feels an Irishman could make a difference if called up to tour.

"I would put Keith Earls before Simon Zebo. What the Irish wings are good at, and the Lions haven't been as good at, is the high ball.

"Conor Murray kicked the ball 17 times against The Crusaders. That's 17 contestables, and Ireland's wings are good at that part of the game."

O'Gara does not feel that Jonathan Sexton should start ahead of Owen Farrell at out-half but does see the merits in finishing the first Test with both players working in tandem as a creative force.

"I really like the idea of having two ball-carriers," said the Munster legend.I just think you need the defence to be more tired and the game to be a little more broken up.

"If the Lions were three ahead or behind after an hour, I think the two of them could be brilliant because then you could manipulate the All Blacks."

see pages 52-5

Irish Independent

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