Former All Black Keven Mealamu admits he still feels “a little bit stink” about the infamous dump tackle he and Tana Umaga made on Brian O’Driscoll during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
While cleaning out a ruck, Mealamu along with All Blacks captain Tana Umaga combined to tackle O’Driscoll, shoulder first into the turf, an action that would see the Lions captain miss the rest of the tour through injury.
They may be some of the brightest stars in world rugby right now, but the Barretts know a thing or two about hard work and how to stay humble.
The All Blacks injury toll continues to rise by the week just a month out from Steve Hansen naming his squad to tackle the British & Irish Lions for the first time in over a decade.
Speaking about the incident 12 years on, Mealamu reaffirms his stance that the pair never set out to injure O’Driscoll, instead just playing rugby.
“I just thought it was a typical rugby movement,” Mealamu told Newsroom.co.nz. “Until I realised Tana was on the side and we had tipped him up and he had landed on his shoulder.
“It’s one of the reasons I didn’t go back to see how he was, because it happened so quickly and I had moved on.”
In the days and weeks that followed, Umaga would bear the brunt of criticism for his actions while many were left dumbfounded that he avoided a sanction. Claims that Umaga was attempting to injure O’Driscoll was tough to stomach for Mealamu who believes it ended up bringing the side closer together.
“It’s not something you ever want to do — take the focus away from the team and the performance. It’s something I still feel stink about,” said Mealamu.
Former All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu retired after the 2015 World Cup final. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
He added: “We were a tight team to begin with. You can’t imagine how much that drove us. What we wanted to do was to bring it back to rugby and to let our rugby do the talking.”
That’s exactly what they managed to do as the All Blacks belted the Lions by 30 points in the second Test in Wellington to clinch the series.
It may have been over a decade ago and ancient history to many of the players representing the two sides that will meet in this tour, but it certainly adds extra interest to what is already shaping up to be an epic encounter.
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY