Former British & Irish Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll believes Warren Gatland’s Lions team face a brutal challenge in New Zealand — even before their three-Test series against the All Blacks this summer.
O’Driscoll led the Lions back in 2005 where they overcame Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wellington, Otago, Southland, Manawatu and Auckland before crashing to defeat against New Zealand Maori and a 3-0 series defeat by the All Blacks.
And the former Irish international believes this summer will be an even tougher test, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen releasing his international stars back to the Crusaders and Blues Super Rugby teams to face the Lions in second and third matches of the tour.
“Right across the game, even the provincial teams are stocked with skilful, powerful players. It just runs very deep, ” O’Driscoll told The Telegraph. “That means that the Lions don’t really get any ‘warm-up’ games.
“So it’s incredibly hard to get the right balance between knitting together and evolving a Test team, and trying to protect your players. It’s a double-edged sword.”
With the first game in New Zealand just under a month away, and European and domestic finals yet to come, O’Driscoll believes there still could be time for Ireland and Leinster centre Garry Ringriose to make the plane.
“I sent him a text when the squad was announced saying I knew he would be really disappointed but there was a long way to go yet. A lot can change in two months,” O’Driscoll said.
“He is the man for all seasons. He’s fast over the ground. He has all the attributes to be a brilliant centre. He backs it up both ways; enjoying defence almost as much as attack. He’s a player I would love to have alongside me if I was a 12.”
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