Thursday 21 September 2017

O'Driscoll ready to renew partnership with Roberts

Brian O’Driscoll will be leading out the Lions against the combined Queensland-NSW team tomorrow
Brian O’Driscoll will be leading out the Lions against the combined Queensland-NSW team tomorrow
Conor George

Conor George

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL and Wales' Jamie Roberts will attempt to recapture the magic that lit up the Lions tour four years ago against the Combined Country in Newcastle tomorrow.

O'Driscoll has been chosen to captain the side but it is the potential his partnership with Roberts presents that is the most exciting aspect to the selection.

"We clicked four years ago," said O'Driscoll. "We get on well off the pitch as well and I'm looking forward to seeing if we can recapture that.

"He is an exciting player to play alongside. People tend to see just the size and the power, but he has a great off-loading game, is a good distributor and runs clever lines. I've enjoyed playing alongside him in the past."

This is the last game in which the Lions coaches will 'experiment' with their selections.

It is probable that a more likely Test team will play against the Waratahs on Saturday before the majority of those who will be in action against the Wallabies back in Brisbane on June 22 will be wrapped in cotton wool.

EMERGE

"Ideally we'd like another couple of warm-up matches but you are probably looking at the Waratahs game as the one from where a (Test) team will begin to emerge," said Warren Gatland.

"At that stage you have to start looking to that game against Australia on June 22 and have to start to balance our needs."

There are a number of interesting selections for tomorrow's game, not least that of Conor Murray at scrum-half alongside Stuart Hogg. Both Jonathan Sexton (hamstring) and Owen Farrell (dead leg) are rested, with the Scotland full-back taking over at pivot.

It is clearly a nod to Murray's confidence and experience that he has been chosen to 'mind' the out-half, much as he did during the Six Nations with Paddy Jackson.

Murray is also under pressure to perform following Ben Youngs' strong performance against the Queensland Reds on Saturday.

Pressure for the 24-year-old scrum-half is what drives him.

"Stuart is new to 10 but he knows the shape well and has been playing there in training. It won't be completely new to him but I suppose it is a bit like the Six Nations," said Murray.

"I'm comfortable in that role and I'm sure we'll work well together."

Murray was generous in his praise of Youngs' performance against the Reds – "he did really well, especially in the conditions. He tailored his game to suit and it was a strong outing" – and wants to use that as motivation.

"I have my chance now and it's up to me to play my game and show what I can do," he said.

Even the players engage in games of guessing the likely Test team. What is informative is that they are also unable to reach a consensus at this juncture.

"There are one or two you can probably guess but, chatting with a few of the lads from different countries, we couldn't agree on a likely team," said Murray.

Irish Independent

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