British & Irish Lions
Brian O'Driscoll backs Lions' Best
May 29, 2013
Brian O'Driscoll (pictured) has faith in his Ireland team-mate Rory Best © PA Photos
O'Driscoll, a former Lions and Ireland captain, believes fellow Irishman Best only just missed out on Warren Gatland's initial squad for the upcoming tour of Australia, while adding the 30-year-old Ulster hooker will boost morale.
Hartley missed out on the Lions tour after receiving an 11-game suspension for verbal abuse of a match official in the Aviva Premiership final on Saturday and Gatland moved quickly to replace the Northampton captain with Best.
"I don't think we lose very much," O'Driscoll said. "Warren said it was the most keenly contested position when it came to making the call and Rory was very unfortunate to miss out. He's been an integral part of Ulster and Ireland's success in the past few years and he's a popular guy to have around."
O'Driscoll skippered the Lions on their 2005 tour of New Zealand, while he was also a part of the British and Irish side that travelled to Australia in 2001. Looking back on that tour, which Australia won 2-1, O'Driscoll concedes that he got carried away in the moment and knows the Lions could have done more to win the 2001 series.
"Back in 2001 it was all new and I was just delighted to be there," O'Driscoll said. "It's only 12 years later that I look back and think what a massive missed opportunity that was. We had them in that second Test (that Australia won 35-14) and didn't finish them off. Then you go on other tours and realise how hard it is to win a series and it doesn't sit any easier but it is great to have another opportunity. I'm an eternal optimist and believe we can go down there and win the series."
O'Driscoll is the second-most capped player in rugby union history and captained his country 83 times. With 24-year-old Welsh flanker Sam Warburton leading the Lions in Australia, O'Driscoll has vowed to provide some leadership support.
"There's a nice balance to his leadership but I always found when I was captain that I liked it when other people did some of the talking," O'Driscoll said. "Then when you talk people tend to listen more so we can help him out in that regard, take some of the pressure off. All good teams have leaders throughout and I hope this one is no different."