independent

Friday 18 April 2014

'You can't let your emotions take over – accuracy is vital'

O'Driscoll insists Lions must be more calculating and pragmatic if they are to win third Test showdown

Brian O’Driscoll looks set to captain the Lions in Saturday’s third and deciding Test aganst Australia

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL'S response to the disappointment of Saturday's second Test loss to Australia is simple – play better, play smarter.

Typically, this was O'Driscoll, the ultimate professional, taking a detached and objective view of Saturday's dramatic loss. He knows that the Lions, and he personally, can and must play immeasurably better if they are to win this series.

O'Driscoll has dismissed any suggestion the Lions are destined to suffer the same fate as the tourists of 2001 when they also lost their one-game lead and ultimately the series in the first of O'Driscoll's four Lions tours.

"People talk about the momentum going with the team that wins the second Test, and I would have agreed with it in 2001 because it was a comfortable victory they (Australia) had," said O'Driscoll.

"But the way the two games have gone, with two points in the first one and one point in the second one, it shows how tight it is between us.

"I think the team that turns up on Saturday and gets some momentum from early in the game will get the upper hand."

EXPERIENCES

O'Driscoll has been channelling his own experiences from 12 years ago to emphasise to the players the importance of not taking anything for granted on this tour.

He's also been using that experience to help tailor the squad's mental preparations this time around.

"I wouldn't go and say there is anything particularly we did 12 years ago ... it's simply a case of getting the details right and then saving your energy for the pitch.

"I don't think there is a huge amount new we are going to learn about ourselves or about the opposition at this stage, so it is just about trying to be clinical when we do get the opportunity to take to the pitch."

The squad enjoyed a rare day off yesterday after relocating to the Noosa vacation resort on the Sunshine Coast.

The decision not to go straight to Sydney from Melbourne has raised eyebrows in some circles but O'Driscoll believes it was the right decision.

"Historically, it is the fifth week, or the week of the second Test, which is the most difficult one," said O'Driscoll.

"It is an opportunity for those players who don't get selected in the second Test and have played on the previous Tuesday to go off tour a little bit.

"You have to have the chance to switch off for 24-48 hours away from rugby, even on Lions tours, and when the time comes to get back on the park and into team meetings and talk about rugby we will do exactly that.

"The general message is that it's still all to play for. They have been two incredibly keenly contested games. Both of them should probably have gone the other way than they did, and it now culminates with a winner-takes-all on Saturday.

"There is disappointment and you have to have a little bit of a mourning period after any loss, but the spirits of the guys have been picked up.

"This (Noosa) has given us the opportunity to unwind a little bit to build up again for Saturday."

The scenes after Saturday's match captured graphically the extent to which Test matches that are so intense and so demanding take a toll of players.

The emotional release for Australia at the final whistle sparked extraordinary scenes of celebration.

The pressure on the home team going into the game knowing that the series was lost if they were defeated was considerable.

It was exaggerated by the manner in which they lost that game in Brisbane, the cruel way fickle fate took a hand and Kurtley Beale failed with two late opportunities to reverse the result from the kicking tee.

So when they stood under their posts and watched the remarkably consistent Leigh Halfpenny line up that final penalty in added-time they must have endured moments of numbing tension. That was evident seconds later when the kick fell short, the whistle blew and they knew they had survived.

Little wonder then that team captain James Horwill broke down and was seen to cry with relief. The sense of fulfilment and achievement can only have been overwhelming.

O'Driscoll acknowledged the draining effects of the emotional build-up and then the final deficit when the whistle blows.

The Lions played on that when so much emphasis was laid on securing a win to reward the senior players and especially O'Driscoll himself and Paul O'Connell after stellar careers.

O'Driscoll counselled against allowing sentiment over-rule cool and clinical judgment.

He stressed that the Lions needed to be more pragmatic and more calculated in their approach if they are to win this week's deciding Test.

"You can't let the emotion take over," he counselled. "You have to have a certain amount of emotion in all games and in games where the stakes are as high as they are this weekend that has to come into play.

"But I think accuracy is vitally important. Both teams lacked accuracy on Saturday at times. There were some unforced errors from both sides, and to string phases together you have to be accurate.

"We struggled to play multi-phase at times, and you have to do that against good defences.

"And we didn't really give ourselves chance to build any momentum because we compounded errors with more errors."

As ever, O'Driscoll is less concerned with the past and more focused on what the side can do to avoid a repeat of last Saturday's disappointment so as to ensure victory and a first series win since 1997.

"We just have to be able to look back, regroup, realise where we went wrong and try to plug those holes for next time," was his simple message.

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