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Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Brian O'Driscoll. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

IRELAND rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll has described as "an exciting feeling" the prospect of partnering midfield powerhouse Manu Tuilagi against the Western Force tomorrow.

Both players make their 2013 British and Irish Lions tour bows in a team O'Driscoll will captain, and they have a tough act to follow after Wales centres Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts shone during Saturday's demolition of the Barbarians.

England star Tuilagi might be 12 years younger than O'Driscoll, played in 104 fewer Tests and has never previously worn the famous red Lions shirt, but his arrival on the scene is eagerly-awaited.

"It is a very exciting prospect playing with him," O'Driscoll said.

"He has got a really good range to his game. People see the strong ball-carrier in him and destructive tackler, but he has an array of skills that probably don't get the credit they deserve.

"It is definitely an exciting feeling partnering him and I am looking forward to our first outing.

 

Respect

"We are very strong in the centre. The two (Welsh) boys played well in very difficult conditions and now the baton is passed to myself and Manu to try to stake our claim."

Tuilagi's respect for O'Driscoll is mutual, and whichever midfield permutation Lions boss Warren Gatland decides upon against Australia in the first Test 19 days from now, it might not be until after a lengthy selection debate has ensued.

"For me, it is an honour to be selected and be playing with a legend like him. I'm very excited," Tuilagi said.

"Saturday's game against the Barbarians went really well. The boys who played set the bar really high and it's an opportunity for us players on Wednesday to keep that bar high.

"I remember his (O'Driscoll's) try against Australia (at Brisbane in 2001) for the Lions, so it is amazing to play alongside him."

Only two players – fellow Irishmen Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson – have featured on more Lions tours than O'Driscoll, and his presence on and off the pitch will be crucial in helping mould what Gatland hopes can be a Test series-winning squad. And, according to O'Driscoll, the signs are promising.

"I think we are getting there," he said. "We are having a good laugh together, enjoying each other's company, training hard.

 

Peaked

"That was a really hard week in Hong Kong. On Sunday, our session peaked at 38C and whatever the humidity was.

"Those sort of sessions will stand you when you're toughing it out with guys. It is how you get to know each other well, realise how much you are willing to dig for one another and not be the weakest link.

"Those sessions bind you together in a way that you are not even conscious of."

Tour captain Sam Warburton will return to full training tomorrow while Welsh prop Gethin Jenkins took part in all of today's session in a major boost for the tourist's test ambitions.

Flanker Warburton missed the opening 59-8 win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong because of a knee problem.

Jenkins was also absent because of a long standing calf issue but both could play against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, with Rob Kearney the only long-term injury worry.


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