British & Irish Lions
O'Driscoll welcomes fight of the Cheetahs
June 7, 2009
Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll smiles during training, British & Irish Lions training session, St David's School, Johannesburg, South Africa, June 1 , 2009
Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll is keen to play in next game on Lions tour against the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday © Getty Images

Brian O'Driscoll has welcomed the testing game the Lions endured in Bloemfontein when the tourists had to scramble to a narrow 26-24 victory over the Cheetahs.

And the Ireland skipper also admitted that the tourists had struggled to come to terms with the refereeing of England official Wayne Barnes. O'Driscoll may have sat out the third game of the tour but he was an approving spectator, judging by his post-match comments in which he said that the tourists had not wanted another one-sided match following the 74-10 win over the Golden Lions last Wednesday.

"It looked as if it was going to be like that as we raced to an early 20-point lead, but we then lost Stephen Ferris to the sin-bin and the Cheetahs came back at us," O'Driscoll wrote in his column for The Observer newspaper. "You learn a lot when you are pushed to the limit, far more than in an easy win. We were defensively strong against the Cheetahs and our set-pieces worked well, but we suffered from turnovers again."

O'Driscoll said the Lions were looking to use quick ball and felt the Cheetahs had been able to slow down possession helped by the refereeing of Barnes.

"A unique feature of this tour is that some of the warm-up games are being controlled by referees from Britain and Ireland, starting with England's Wayne Barnes. Some may have thought that would work in our favour, but we struggled with his interpretations at the breakdown more than we had in the games controlled by South African officials."

O'Driscoll added that he did not know whether he would be playing in the next Lions game, on Wednesday, against the Sharks in Durban. "But I am desperate to get back on to the field again. You do not feel part of a tour until you have played a match, which is why last Wednesday was so special for me, and every member of the squad has now pulled the jersey on and tasted action.

"The management are giving no clues away about the line-up for the opening game against South Africa and there is no division into the Saturday and midweek sides. There are no dirt-trackers on this trip: we are one team, all pushing each other.

"I am certainly not taking my Test place for granted. The day you do that is the day you miss out. It was not that long ago that I was hearing in some quarters that I was past my best having reached the ripe old age of 30, but my desire and competitiveness remain as strong as ever.

"As you get older, you have to adapt to the change in your body. When you look at truly great sportsmen in the past, such as Michael Jones, the former New Zealand wing forward, and Dennis Bergkamp, the former Holland footballer, their influence remained profound when they reached their thirties, even though they modified their game to take into account the passing of time."


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