British & Irish Lions
O'Driscoll labels De Villiers a 'disgrace'
July 1, 2009

British & Irish Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll has slammed South Africa coach Peter de Villiers for his controversial comments regarding eye-gouging.

De Villiers questioned the eight-week ban handed to Springboks flanker Schalk Burger after he was found guilty of making contact with the eye area of Lions winger Luke Fitzgerald. He also dimissed his player's actions actions in the immediate aftermath of last Saturday's second Test, declaring it did not warrant a yellow card and that such incidents were a, "part of sport".

O'Driscoll, who flies home on Wednesday after injury brought an end to his tour, has described De Villiers' reaction as a "disgrace" and his opinions as "despicable".

"When I heard those comments yesterday I wondered how someone can get away with something like that," said O'Driscoll. "Irrespective of any apology, I find it an absolute disgrace that a coach of a national team can make comments as he did about gouging being part of the game.

"Someone made a really good point to me that kids or parents watching an interview like that, questioning whether they should have their kid play rugby or soccer, that's their decision made right there. To hear a national coach saying in any shape or form, gouging is acceptable in the modern-day game is despicable.

"I find that mind-boggling that you can have a national team coach saying something like that. Essentially, it brought the game into disrepute."

O'Driscoll suffered concussion during the Pretoria clash, ruling him out of the third Test at Ellis Park on Saturday. It ends an otherwise outstanding season - he led Ireland to the Six Nations title and a Grand Slam, in addition to winning the Heineken Cup with Leinster - on a low note.

"I always felt that this would be my last Lions tour," he added. "But at the same, you see (35-year-old Lions lock) Simon Shaw and think well, there's hope. I don't know, maybe I've been a little bit tainted by a little bit of success this year.

"What I hate is that essentially that's the last chapter which will prey on your holidays a little bit. That's the taste that is left in your mouth - it's defeat in a series with the Lions, having won the Slam and the Heineken Cup. It is disappointing to think that you win those two in a year that you lose a Lions series.

"In another year you would be on a complete high throughout the whole summer, whereas now you're left with the feeling that I've been involved in three Lions tours and I've lost the three of them."

Despite the Lions suffering their third successive Test series defeat, O'Driscoll said: "I've had a brilliant tour, and I think that says an awful lot about whatever the management have done and the group of players too. It has been an incredibly enjoyable tour, way more than the other two (in 2001 and 2005).

"Lions tours are based on the success of the (Test) series, but at least this time around there has been more to it than the previous tours. I've enjoyed the other factors that maybe I didn't enjoy in the first two."

Unlike in 2005 though, after O'Driscoll was speared-tackled out of contention in the first minute of the opening Test, he will not remain on tour this time.

"I've learned an awful lot from four years ago about not staying around after your tour has finished," he said. "I stayed for a fortnight (in 2005), and I look back and that was not my smartest move. If I am not going to be on the training pitch at least trying to help the team win the third Test, there is no need for me to be hanging around."


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