18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
The Steamers, 2003/04 Ranfurly Shield winners and NPC (National Provincial Competition) semi-finalists, have nothing to lose when they take on the might of the Lions this weekend (kick-off 8.10am, live Sky Sports 1, RTE Radio 1).
An intriguing back row battle lies ahead as Bay skipper Wayne Ormond, sometime Waikato Chiefs openside Nili Latu and Highlanders number 8 Colin Bourke clash with this year's Six Nations Player of the tournament Martyn Williams of Wales, and 2003 World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio and Richard Hill.
The Steamers' Ormond, last season's NPC Player of the year, expects the Lions tour opener, to be played in front of a 35,000-strong crowd, to be decided up front.
"It's going to be a big contest in the forwards," he told The Dominion Post. "You can't afford to take a backward step because if you do the Lions will run away with it. They're very strong at the set-piece as it is."
With Bay facing the Northern Hemisphere tourists for the first time in 22 years, Ormond, whose side contains former All-Black full-back Adrian Cashmore, added: "We've got a lot of work to cover, but in saying that with the excitement we've got, I'm sure the boys will keep going and nail their jobs.
"We've been waiting for this game for a long time."
His opposite number, Ireland centre and captain O'Driscoll, speaking at today's Lions press conference at the Hilton hotel in Auckland, said: "I am sure the Steamers will be very much up for the game. The opportunity doesn't come round very often for players not in the international frame to play teams like the Lions.
"They will be very physical and pumped up. We will have to match them on all fronts and then some. We could get a shock surprise if we don't start playing the way we know we can."