Former All Blacks head coach Graham Henry stated how the negative fallout of Tana Umaga’s and Keven Mealamu’s tackle on Brian O’Driscoll galvanised New Zealand against the British & Irish Lions in 2005.
After the tackle on O’Driscoll, which ended the Irishman’s participation, much of the focus for centred on that for the rest of the tour. With Ton’y Blair’s former press secretary Alastair Campbell in charge of the Lions media relations, a lot of the focus turned towards the O’Driscoll tackle rather than what was happening on the pitch.
“Certainly there was a huge amount of interest in the O’Driscoll injury and what happened around that,” Henry told Fairfax Media. “We had to help the guys who were involved in that, move on and concentrate on playing good football in the second Test. Maybe that was part of our motivation.
“There was so much negative business going on from the British media it probably galvanised us … or helped us to galvanise anyway.”
Mealamu spoke about the lack of intent to injure O’Driscoll back in 2005 and Henry added that some incidents happen during games and insisted his players had to move on to the second and third tests against the Lions, and keep what was being said in the media at arms-length.
“We got around Tana because he was getting a lot of bad press at the time. It was totally accidental – one of those things that happen in a game of rugby. Everybody was sad about [what happened to O’Driscoll] but those things are outside of your control.
“You’ve just got to move on and concentrate on the next game. The guys had respect for Brian and they didn’t want that to happen. I think they handled it pretty well.”
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY