Paul O’Connell has been backed by England and Lions legend Mike Teague to lead the 2009 British & Irish Lions into battle against the world champion Springboks this summer.
Mike Teague, speaking prior to the HSBC Lions Legends Dinner in Cardiff, believes the Munster and Ireland lock has all the physical attributes to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Willie John McBride and England’s Martin Johnson in leading the Lions to victory in South Africa.
“When you look at Willie John and Martin it is easy to see why their opponents feared them and their team-mates wanted to follow them, said Teague, who helped the 1989 Lions win the Test series in Australia.
“I see Paul O’Connell in very much the same mode – a big man and a big player.
“When you look at his set piece play, his work rate and the way he carries the ball, he has all the makings of a great player.
“He is certainly the sort of player that I would have wanted to play with and I’m sure he can be a force with the Lions this summer.”
Teague joined McBride and Gareth Edwards at the dinner on the eve of the Wales v England Six Nations match in Cardiff and backed Ian McGeechan’s team to match the achievement of Johnson’s 1997 side in beating the Boks.
“I think there is enough talent here in the four countries to create a strong enough team to beat the South Africans. But it will be all about how quickly the players can gel,” he warned.
“We found our feet pretty quickly in 1989 and the fact we had some tough games before the Test series began against the Wallabies made such a difference to us.
“I’m sure every game in South Africa will be hard, especially up on the High Veldt.
“That’s why the Lions need a strong, powerful leader and why I feel O’Connell is the man to put at the helm.”