Saturday 25 November 2017

'A special moment' as Brian O'Driscoll presents jerseys to Peter O'Mahony and Lions team

Peter O'Mahony and (inset) O'Driscoll hands the Lions captain his jersey
Peter O'Mahony and (inset) O'Driscoll hands the Lions captain his jersey

Brian O'Driscoll presented the British and Irish Lions players with their first Test shirts in Auckland on Friday - 12 years after being spear-tackled out of action against New Zealand.

The former Ireland captain played in eight Lions Tests across four successive tours from 2001 to 2013.

He also won 133 Ireland caps as one of the greatest players of his generation.

But the 38-year-old had no chance to impress in the Tests when the Lions last toured New Zealand in 2005, being on the receiving end of an illegal tackle by All Blacks pair Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.

O'Driscoll, the 2005 Lions captain, suffered a dislocated shoulder and was sidelined for six months as a result of the incident, which happened during the opening moments of a first Test clash in Christchurch that the Lions went on to lose 21-3.

The traditional and cherished shirt presentations to the match-day squad are a feature of Lions tours, with former playing stars and coaches invited to hand over jerseys to each selected player in turn.

And O'Driscoll was afforded the honour on this occasion as the Lions prepare for Saturday's series opener against New Zealand at Eden Park, with recipients including Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony, who skippers the Lions this weekend.

Pictures posted on the Lions' official Twitter feed showed O'Driscoll presenting O'Mahony with his shirt, and also to replacement first Test hooker Ken Owens as the squad looked on.

O'Driscoll spoke passionately to the Lions squad and explained what the Lions means to him and what it means to everyone back home.

He also expressed his pride at being asked to present the kit to the Lions team and gave a flavour of the scale of support and excitement from fans on the ground in Auckland.

O'Driscoll, who played 141 test matches, then spoke about the scale of the match and the opportunity this group has to make history in one of the most famous jerseys.

"Pete is totally deserving of the honour. He's a really wise head on relatively young shoulders. He's still only 27 but he has a wiseness to him," O'Driscoll told Off The Ball on Newstalk last night.

"At training, he has built a huge respect from his fellow teammates. They see his leadership in the way he plays, not necessarily the way he speaks but he does speak very well. It's about the way he plays and that aggressive confrontational game that he plays.

"It's a big statement from the Lions, making him captain. It's, 'This is what we're coming at you with and see can you match us'.

"I'm delighted for Pete. It's funny how fortunes change. Jamie Heaslip injuring himself before the England game and then Pete coming in having the game of his life and then doing really well in the quarter-final [vs Toulouse] in Europe. Now he finds himself captaining the Lions. Who would have thought that three months ago?"

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