Lions 2013: Brian O'Driscoll a modern great says Andy Irvine

Brian O'Driscoll


ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Saturday, 6 July
11:00 BST (20:00 local)
Live text commentary on BBC Sport website, updates on BBC Radio 5 live

British and Irish Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll has been hailed as "one of the greatest players of the last 30 years" as he prepares for his final Lions Test.

The Irishman, 34, is expected to take over from injured captain Sam Warburton for Saturday's series decider in Sydney.

It will be his ninth Lions Test, equalling the tally of current tour manager Andy Irvine and Irish legend Syd Millar.

"Brian has been one of the greatest players on the planet for the last 20-30 years," said Irvine.

"He has been an absolute role model, off the field as well. On this tour, any kids that come up and ask for an autograph or photo, he is always the first to find time.

"He is an absolute star. He is just a great ambassador of the game, and you only have to look at this record on the field.

"I do feel for him. He has had so many bumps in the last 12 or 13 years. I am amazed he is still in one piece. Even at his age he is unbelievably heroic, and a great trainer. I can't speak highly enough of him."

Irvine believes there are "three or four" players in the squad who could lead the side on Saturday, in the absence of Warburton and 2009 Lions captain Paul O'Connell, another injury victim.

Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip have both led their countries, while Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate led the Lions in their last midweek match against Melbourne Rebels.

"There is so much analysis and structure to it now, I don't think the role of captain is quite what it was perhaps 20 or 30 years ago," said Irvine, the former Scotland full-back who toured with the Lions in 1974, 1977 and 1980, scoring a record 274 points - including 20 tries - in 42 games in all.

"All the players study the analysis and plays so closely they are all pretty tuned in. Alun Wyn [Jones] would have to be a possibility, but that is up to Gats [head coach Warren Gatland] and the coaches.

"I would say there are three or four potential captains, and obviously Brian has been there and done it all with the Lions and Ireland."

O'Driscoll has led sides at international level on a world record 84 occasions, in 83 of his 125 Tests for Ireland, plus the Lions in the first Test in New Zealand in 2005.

Irvine, who believes this tour has been "possibly the most successful ever" in terms of the interest and excitement generated, insists there is no air of despondency in the Lions camp after the agony of their 16-15 second Test defeat in Melbourne.

After a couple of days off recovering and relaxing in the tranquillity of Queensland's Sunshine Coast, instead of what he called the "concrete jungle" of Sydney, the Scot believes the players will relish resuming rugby activity on Wednesday.

"They are raring to go again," he said. "Don't feel sorry for us. Saturday was not catastrophic. It was disappointing and obviously they were down afterwards, but a sign of a good side is how they bounce back.

"I have a lot of confidence in these guys and the coaches and medics and physios looking after them. We will be up for it on Saturday. They don't need any sympathy from anyone.

"If Australia whip us by 30 points on Saturday, then it will be catastrophic. But I would like to think we will be there or thereabouts come the final whistle.

"It would be a gut-wrencher if we lose. We have come so close. We would be bitterly disappointed, but thankfully we get two bites at the cherry."

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