Wallaby brain to counter Lions' brawn
B&I Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll rated Australia as one of the world's "smartest" teams and warned they could pull out some surprises.
Decorated centre Brian O'Driscoll rated Australia as one of the world's "smartest" teams and warned they could pull out some surprises in this weekend's first Test against the British and Irish Lions.
The Irish star, returning to the scene of his greatest Lions triumph in Brisbane, said the Wallabies have clever players able to exploit the tourists, who are chasing their first series victory in 16 years and have won only two of their last nine Tests.
O'Driscoll, 34, the second-most capped player in Rugby Union history with 131 Test appearances - 125 for Ireland and six with the Lions - partners Welshman Jonathan Davies in the centres, but is respectful of what Robbie Deans's Wallabies may offer at the Suncorp Stadium.
"I've said it until I am blue in the face but the Australians are probably one of the smartest teams," O'Driscoll told a match-eve press conference.
"They invariably have very clever players in key positions and the team for tomorrow [Saturday] is no different.
"You look at the quality of the players left out of their side so you realise the calibre of the players who are going to be playing and that heightens the excitement all the more."
O'Driscoll, on his fourth Lions tour and the captain on the 2005 tour to New Zealand, believes Wallaby debutant inside centre Christian Lealiifano fits the Australian mould.
"Just from what I've seen in Super Rugby, Christian is a good distributor of the ball and another clever thinker of the game and being able to identify space," he said.
"He's in that Aussie mould of being able to play heads-up rugby, a clever footballer. He's someone who fits into the role perfectly it will be an exciting time for him but also a nerve-wracking time to make your best on this stage."
O'Driscoll also said he expects the Wallabies, who won the last series in 2001 after losing the opening Test in Brisbane, to "pull some new things out" in the highly anticipated series opener.
"Obviously the Wallabies have a great record at Suncorp [Stadium] and we haven't seen them for quite a while as they've been in training camp," he said.
"No doubt they will be pulling some new things out tomorrow but we can't really worry ourselves about them.
"Yes, we have done analysis on them and tried to identify where they will be strong and where we feel we can go at them, but we have to focus on ourselves and get our game right and try to implement that game plan on them."
O'Driscoll scored an outstanding individual try in his only win in six Tests for the Lions in Brisbane 12 years ago. He said he hoped his experience would help him be more calm and relaxed on Saturday.
"I am hopeful that it will be a little less stressful this time round. You've been there a couple of times and I've seen different type of results, although I haven't won a lot of Lions Test matches," he said.
"From knowing what to expect a little bit more tomorrow hopefully I will be able to be a little bit more relaxed and have a little bit of calm.
"You can't concern yourself with the enormity or what's at stake or how many people watching. All you can do is play your game and focus on that."