British & Irish Lions 2013
Roberts hails 'legend' O'Driscoll
Thu, 04 Jul 2013 12:17
Brian is one of the most incredible players I have played with or against
After effectively forcing Brian O'Driscoll out of the British and Irish Lions team, Jamie Roberts has hailed the Irishman as a legend of the game.
The two centres paired up four years ago in the series defeat to the Springboks, but did not link up in a Test match on the current tour, with Roberts injured for the first two games and O'Driscoll sensationally dropped by coach Warren Gatland for the decider in Sydney on Saturday.
It is the first time that O'Driscoll, a veteran of four Lions series, has been dropped and Roberts made no secret of his admiration for the Irish midfield wizard.
"Brian is one of the most incredible players I have played with or against in rugby union. I am sure he will be remembered as a Lions legend.
"Brian is a leader and I've tasted that playing alongside him. He's a force, and it is up to me and Jon now to lead the way in midfield and take that responsibility and thrive under the pressure.
"The coach picks the team. Warren [Gatland] has picked the team he thinks will go out there and beat Australia on Saturday. That changes week in, week out, with injuries and performances," he explained.
Although the pressure will be on Roberts to justify his selection on Saturday, he is looking forward to the challenge of helping secure a first Lions series victory in 16 years.
"I see it as a responsibility, I don't see it as pressure. I've been picked to do a job and it is important I deliver. I've always thought that I thrive under pressure in big games - it's where I like to play," said the 26-year-old.
"The higher the pressure, the more responsibility is put on me, the more I thrive and the more I enjoy it. There is no bigger stage to play on. It's a Lions deciding Test match, it's all or nothing, and this is the time you have to deliver."
He said that his established partnership with fellow Welshman Jonathan Davies, will be vital in the high-pressure atmosphere in Sydney.
"Over the last three years with Jon we have become the most capped centre partnership Welsh rugby has seen. We've got experience and we've played together a lot," said Roberts.
The hard-hitting centre revealed that he thought his tour was over after suffering his hamstring injury in the match against the Waratahs.
"As soon as I was walking off the pitch in the Waratahs game I thought I was going home. I have to say a massive thanks to the medical team who worked wonders with the rehab," Roberts said.
"I had a scan the day after the injury and then they sat me down and said they would keep me on tour, stay positive and do everything in their power to get me fit....The gods have smiled on me."
Roberts said he did not run until Friday last week and did not feel 100 percent fit.
"Obviously, they decided not to put me in contention for selection last week, but I'm delighted to make it this week," he said.
"Seeing the boys lose by a point last week was heartbreaking, really, but the series is poised nicely (at 1-1) and we've got a golden opportunity on Saturday."
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