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Lions' cubs keep me young, says veteran O'Driscoll

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL feels being on this year's Lions tour is helping to keep him young.

The 34-year-old Ireland centre, who has been involved in three previous Lions tours, was the oldest member of the squad until ex-Wales winger Shane Williams, 36, was called up for yesterday's match against the Brumbies.

And regarding his younger colleagues within the 2013 party, O'Driscoll said: "I have 12 years and more on some of these guys.

"(Scotland full-back) Stuart Hogg is the youngest guy in the squad at 20. I'm 34, so I've got 14 years on him. That's a frightening thought – 12 years ago he was in short pants!

"It keeps me young. I go into training every day and the level of conversation definitely keeps me young."

At the same time, there is a significant effect an elder statesman like O'Driscoll can have upon the new generation in terms of aiding their maturing process, and the Dubliner is very much keeping in mind that he is a thoroughly seasoned campaigner mixing with plenty of players for whom the Lions environment is entirely new.

"There are guys on a completely different level to you, in their early 20s and on a massive learning curve," he said. "I'm far from knowing it all, but I've seen a lot of things now in my professional career."

Of course, beyond the range of ages, the key way in which Lions tours bring together different types of player is with regard to nationalities, as men accustomed to taking each other on in international competition become team-mates.

It leads, O'Driscoll admits, to some unexpected friendships being forged. The Leinster man said: "The Lions is so unique; you kick lumps out of all these guys year on year, and they're massive adversaries. Then all of a sudden they become your team-mates.

"You're forced to bond in a six- or seven-week period, and play for one another against one of the three best teams in the world.

"You have preconceived notions about what sort of guys particular individuals are.

"You see the way they carry on on the pitch, and you might think they're not your type of people. But then they can completely surprise you; you can room with someone for two or three days and they become your best friend. They're looking out for you, making sure you're at meetings, taking the right gear.

"You go for dinner or a drink with them. All of a sudden, you're out with four or five other guys and you realise you're the only Irish guy there."

Following the Brumbies match, Warren Gatland's Lions get their three-Test series against Australia under way on Saturday in Brisbane.

Lions centre Jamie Roberts is a "grave doubt" for the first Test because of a hamstring strain. Roberts is likely to be replaced in the line-up by compatriot Jonathan Davies, who looks set to start in a midfield partnership with O'Driscoll.