Saturday 24 February 2018

O'Driscoll puts Lions on red alert for 'cup final'

Brian O'Driscoll during the training session at Scotch College, Melbourne in Australia
Brian O'Driscoll during the training session at Scotch College, Melbourne in Australia

Gavin Mairs in Melbourne

Jonathan Sexton has revealed how an inspirational address by Brian O'Driscoll on the importance of clinching the Test series with a victory today has given the Lions a "cup final" mentality.

O'Driscoll delivered a rallying call to the squad on Thursday, emphasising to those players on their first Lions tour, such as Sexton, the scale of both the challenge and the potential reward on offer.

O'Driscoll was just 21 when he scored a stunning try to help inspire the Lions to a famous victory against Australia in the first Test in Brisbane 12 years ago, only for defeat at the same stadium in Melbourne in the second Test to crucially hand the momentum back to the Wallabies.

Sexton admits that the squad want to seize the moment, not just for themselves, but also for O'Driscoll and the 2009 Lions captain Paul O'Connell, who has remained with the squad despite being ruled out of the remainder of the tour with a broken arm.

"Brian put it into perspective," Sexton said.

"He was here 12 years ago as a 21-year-old and the opportunity slipped by. He thought he'd get plenty more opportunities and 12 years later this is his next opportunity.

"It's not something that comes along too often and is something all the lads want to grasp while they can. He emphasised that, Gats (Warren Gatland) the same.

"We want to do it for guys like Brian and Paul. Paul is obviously injured, but if we win, he can say he was part of the Test-winning squad at least."

Sexton has his own chance to etch his name into Lions folklore if he can guide the Lions to victory. His attacking prowess and tactical kicking will be key, particularly given the potency in Australia's back three.

The Ireland fly-half admits the nerves have been building all week about the chance to clinch a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," but he insists there is also a ruthless sense of professionalism in the camp.

"This is a chance to put yourself into the history books in many ways. A lot of people have done it at club level, have done it at Grand Slam level, but none of us here have done it with the Lions.

"It'll be a pretty special dressing-room if we can do the business. We talk about little things like that early in the week to put it in the mind, but it'll very much be down to our performance on the pitch.

"Talking about making history is not going to win you the game. It's about executing the moves, the game plan. We're looking at it as a one-off game, a cup final."

Sexton has a new half-back partner this week in Ben Youngs after Mike Phillips was left out of the squad and he said the pair had struck a good relationship despite having such limited time together.

"We had a little bit at the end of the Reds' game," Sexton said. "We've had all week training because obviously Mike was off at the start of the week with a sore knee. We're pretty much on the same wavelength now and I'm looking forward to playing with him. I've had a good few days with Ben. Hopefully we'll click.

"Australia are going to throw everything at us. You'd expect nothing less, especially with the Australians one down.

"It was (the same) 12 years ago and we have to learn the lessons from there in terms of momentum if they win the second Test. We've got the momentum now and we have to try and win." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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