British & Irish Lions
'If you dare to dream, it turns into a nightmare'
Tom Hamilton in Melbourne
June 28, 2013
Brian O'Driscoll knows more than most what it feels like to lose a series © Getty Images
What has become apparent as we move ever closer to the second Test, is the key role Brian O'Driscoll is playing in making sure the other 14 men chosen to start on Saturday know just how big a game lies in wait.
He knows more than most what it feels like to lose a series. In 2001, the British & Irish Lions were 1-0 up, but lost the next two against Australia. In 2005 he was spear-tackled out of the series against the All Blacks during the first Test, but the Lions lost 3-0. In 2009, although the Lions regained some face winning the third Test against the Springboks, they were already 2-0 down at that stage.
O'Driscoll starts on Saturday alongside Jonathan Davies and while the man wearing No.12 is likely to get at least another shot in winning a Test series in four years time, the famous No.13 will probably be either in the stands watching the men in red take to the field against the All Blacks or back on his sofa in Dublin taking it all in come 2017.
Both Warren Gatland and Rob Howley know what it feels like to lose a Lions Test series. While Howley has experienced this on both sides of the fence having played on the 2001 trip, Gatland was part of the coaching staff in South Africa four years ago. The Kiwi knows his players are on the verge of history, but it is something he is wary of.
"We just need to make them aware of potentially how important Saturday is and the Test series is. It's that close," Gatland said. "The weight of expectation is something we are well aware of, but you can't let that weight of expectation dominate your performance in the game.
"It can't consume us, and it is important it doesn't do that. We need to have that clarity of being mentally strong. If that weight of expectation is too heavy, you can sometimes go into your shell and it can constrict your play."
O'Driscoll has also emphasised this to the players, with Howley opening the door on the camp when he spoke to the media earlier today. "O'Driscoll has been hugely influential. The experience he had in 2001, you learn from those experiences. There's probably one player that deserves it more than anyone else is Brian O'Driscoll. He's been fantastic for northern hemisphere and world rugby but it shows just how hard it is to win a Test series.
"He spoke yesterday and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. There was an opportunity just before half time in 2001 during the second Test to get over and we didn't take it - we were 11-6 up or something like that. On Saturday, it is about being ruthless and when those opportunities present themselves, we have to take them. Brian talked about those experiences and doing everything you can between now and kick-off and it was just the edge which made the group re-focus."
So this crop of Lions have the opportunity now to emulate the class of 1989 and secure a first Lions Test series win since 1997. But what is becoming increasingly evident, is that the coaching staff and O'Driscoll are not letting the chosen XV get ahead of themselves and dream about the full-time whistle. Howley and O'Driscoll know the pain of having a series snatched away from their grasp and neither will want to be in that boat once again when they board the plane back to Heathrow after the third Test.
"If you dare to dream, it turns into a nightmare," Howley said. "The players are very focused, they have been task orientated. They have got on with their job and that's what they need to do in a Test match. You must focus every 30 seconds as if you dare to dream about the future, it does not happen."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.