British and Irish Lions stalwart Brian O’Driscoll is urging his teammates to shrug off the disappointment of last weekend’s defeat and play the 80 minutes of their lives in the decisive third Test against Australia.
The 34-year-old Irish center is still searching for his first Test series win on his fourth Lions tour after the Wallabies came from behind to pip the tourists 16-15 in Melbourne on Saturday.
After the 23-21 first Test victory for the Lions, the series remains in the balance going into this weekend’s decider in Sydney, with O’Driscoll looking likely to be named captain in place of the injured Sam Warburton.
“It’s still all to play for,” O’Driscoll told reporters at the team’s training camp in Noosa, Queensland.
“They have been two incredibly keenly contested games. Both of them should probably have gone the other way that they did and it now culminates with a winner-takes-all on Saturday,” he said.
“We knew we were never going to get it easy against Australia and it has been proved. Yes, there is disappointment and you have to have a little bit of a mourning period after any loss, but the spirits of the guys have been picked up,” O’ Driscoll said.
“It is important to be able to feel the disappointment, because if you try to banish it immediately it will come back to you, and it still does at times throughout the day. Then after a couple of days you just have to have the ability to shelve it and focus on the target. One more 80 minutes this season is all that is asked of everyone in the squad — the 80 minutes of their lives,” he added.
The decision to take the Lions up to the seaside resort of Noosa for four days before the deciding Test has come under fire from former England coach Clive Woodward, who described it as a “big mistake.”
O’Driscoll, who was captain to Woodward’s coach on the ill-fated 2005 tour of New Zealand, begged to differ.
“You have to be able to switch off for 24 to 48 hours away from rugby, even on Lions tours,” he said. “When the time kicks back in to getting back on the park and into team meetings, and talk about rugby, we will do exactly that,” he said.
“There is always a mental toll in games of this magnitude. Thankfully, you do get seven days to try to get over one game and have the building process for the next one,” he added.
O’Driscoll made his Lions debut in the last tour to Australia 12 years ago, when the home side lost the opening Test and trailed at halftime in the second before winning the series 2-1.
That the first two contests were decided by a combined three points suggested to O’Driscoll that this year would be different in terms of how much momentum Australia would take from their Melbourne victory.
“People talk about the momentum going with the team that wins the second Test and I would have agreed with it in 2001, because it was a comfortable victory they had back then,” he said.
“The way these two games have gone, with two points in the first one and one point in the second one, just shows how tight it is. I think the team that turns up on Saturday and gets some momentum from early on in the game will get the upper hand,” O’ Driscoll added.