2013 British & Irish Lions
Henderson backs O'Driscoll to shine for Lions
Graham Jenkins
December 31, 2012
Lions centre Rob Henderson embraces team-mate Brian O'Driscoll, Australia v British & Irish Lions, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, June 30, 2001
Rob Henderson embraces Brian O'Driscoll following the Lions' victory over Australia at The Gabba in 2001 © Getty Images

Rob Henderson is confident his former team-mate Brian O'Driscoll will earn selection for next summer's tour of Australia but believes he faces a fight to earn a place in the Test side.

Henderson had a front row seat for O'Driscoll's emergence as one of the sport's biggest stars at the turn of the century and together they proved a formidable midfield pairing for both Ireland and the British & Irish Lions on their last trip Down Under in 2001 when the Wallabies claimed a narrow series triumph.

O'Driscoll now has his eyes on a fourth tour and has been backed to spearhead the Lions' quest for revenge. "A fit Brian O'Driscoll, even at 33 years of age, will get into the squad," said Henderson, who claimed 32 Test caps during a colourful playing career that included stints with London Irish, Wasps, Munster and Toulon. "But he has a lot of fierce competition in the form of a lot of young and very able centres that are coming through the ranks."

The inspirational O'Driscoll is poised to make a surprise return from an ankle injury this weekend with a Six Nations that will be pivotal in deciding the make-up of the squad looming large on the horizon. But while fitness may all but assure O'Driscoll of further Lions honours, Henderson has warned him it will not be enough to add to his impressive tally of Test caps.

"To make the squad he is going to have to be fit and to make the Test side he is going to have to be on top of his game," said Henderson. "There is genuine competition for places. Whereas for the last one, two and even three Lions tours Brian would have been the first name on the team sheet, I'm not convinced that is the case now."

But such is O'Driscoll's status in the game, Henderson suggested that the Lions cannot afford to leave him at home next summer. "Brian O'Driscoll is northern hemisphere rugby," he said. "He is rugby's equivalent of a torch bearer and is almost [David] Beckham-esque. He will definitely go on the tour but we'll have to wait and see in what capacity."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.

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