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Drico Looks Forward To Lions Tour

Drico Looks Forward To Lions Tour

At Sunday’s launch of the Ireland element of the HSBC Rugby Festivals at Terenure College in Dublin, Leinster and Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll admitted the Lions tour to South Africa is already on his mind.

With just eight months until the British & Irish Lions return to tour South Africa – for the first time in 12 years – Brian O’Driscoll knows how special a place on the tour would be.

“Whilst something which is eight months away isn’t in the forefront of my mind, everyone is fully aware already that this is a Lions season,” he said.

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“There is a heck of a lot of rugby to be played before then and as a player you are almost afraid to think too much about it as so much can happen in that period.

“You really need to be in form going into the Six Nations and then the final rounds of the Heineken Cup before you are in with a real chance of selection. To me, the Lions is the carrot dangling heavily at the end of the season.”

Fresh from his try-scoring performance in Leinster’s Heineken Cup win Edinburgh, O’Driscoll was speaking in his new role as HSBC ambassador for the Lions.

HSBC is the Principal Partner of the British & Irish Lions for 2009, and have recently launched the world’s biggest grass roots rugby programme.

He added: “I’m here at Terenure College in Dublin to launch the HSBC Rugby Festivals which is a big grass roots programme.

“It’s actually a mirror image of the Lions in that it’s a programme that involves all four home nations. It is helping to develop the game and getting more kids to play rugby especially in this Lions season.

“There is a great level of interest in rugby at the moment in Ireland in particular so events like this are great. It is good being able to help, in however small way, to get more kids playing rugby and hopefully inspiring more youngsters to pick up a rugby ball.”

Of course, O’Driscoll was captain on the Lions’ last tour to New Zealand in 2005 but his involvement was short-lived with a tour-ending shoulder injury coming in the opening minutes of the first Test.

And while he says the 2009 tour will not be about avenging the missed opportunities of three years ago, he does have strong ambitions to pull on the famous red jersey at least one more time.

“I would really love to be part of another Lions series. I have been fortunate enough to play on two tours now. We should have won in Australia in 2001, and then the New Zealand tour for me was over before it started and we lost miserably.

“Next summer’s tour is certainly something I would love to be involved with,” the 29-year-old admitted.

With over 50,000 British and Irish fans expected to travel to South Africa to follow Ian McGeechan’s squad, O’Driscoll summed up what makes the Lions so special.

“(The Lions) creates such excitement amongst players and fans across all of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“You kinda forget the enormity of it until the Lions season starts. It’s the rareness of the event that makes it such a huge spectacle.”

McGeechan was named in May as head coach for the next tour and O’Driscoll is pleased that the Scot is on board.

“‘Geech’ brings a lot to the role. He seems to have the ability to bring about great camaraderie and bond teams in such a short time which is half the battle with a Lions tour.

“And don’t forget he has already had success with the Lions, especially on the last tour to South Africa in 1997.

“Playing South Africa at any time is a tough ask but it is doable, and they can be beaten. The Springboks are under huge pressure of their own to win.

“There is no way they will concede another loss to the Lions without going down without a fight. Next summer will offer players a great chance to make a little bit of history.”

Brian O’Driscoll is an HSBC ambassador. HSBC is the Principal Partner of the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2009.