British & Irish Lions
McBride issues warning to Lions
Graham Jenkins
March 20, 2009
Willie John McBride contests a line-out against South Africa in 1974
McBride led the Lions on an undefeated 22-match tour of South Africa in 1974 © Getty Images

Lions legend Willie-John McBride has warned this year's elite tourists that it will take a monumental forward effort to beat South Africa later this year insisting, "We've got to get in their faces".

The Irish lock, who captained the most successful ever Lions side which toured South Africa in 1974, insists that the battle up front will decide the eagerly-awaited Test series against the Springboks and is confident the Lions will rise to the challenge.

"You can't play rugby unless you get your forwards right and we've got to take them on in the forwards," said the 68-year-old who was capped a record 17 times by the Lions across five tours. "We've got to get in their faces, they're the world champions, so we've got to get in amongst them and we've got to get the scrum right. You can't play rugby football without the front row so we've got to get that right before we go to South Africa."

But should the Lions win what is set to be a bruising battle up front, McBride is confident they have the attacking flair to inspire victory.

"I have no doubt we have the backs to take them on, there's no question there," he said. "But the game hasn't changed from my day to this. You've got to get the forwards right and then take it from there. If the forwards are right and get the ball then we have the backs who can take it to them."

McBride, who was also a key member of the Lions side that scored an historic victory over New Zealand in 1971, has also backed Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll to lead the tourists to South Africa.

"A couple of months ago I probably would not have been going for O'Driscoll," he said, "but he's playing well again and leading well and I can't go past him at the moment. [Paul] O'Connell will obviously be a candidate and Ryan Jones will no doubt be a candidate too. But they will all probably be in the team anyway and it's nice to have all that choice."

Coach Ian McGeechan will name the tour party next month with the trip set to begin with the first match against the Royal XV in Rustenburg on May 30. The 10-match schedule will culminate with a three Test series spanning Durban (June 20), Pretoria (June 27) and Johannesburg (July 4).

"I have high hopes for this tour and we've got to get the Lions rugby back on track and back winning again," declared McBride. "I would also give my full support to the management team that has been selected and I'm sure they are going to pick the right players."

Willie John McBride was speaking at an HSBC Lions Legends event - HSBC is the principal partner of the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.


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