British & Irish Lions
Hastings backs O'Driscoll to lead Lions
October 16, 2008
Hastings in action for the Lions during their tour to New Zealand in 1993 © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions legend Gavin Hastings has hailed Brian O'Driscoll as the man to lead the elite tourists to South Africa in 2009.
Wales back row Ryan Jones is favourite to land a position that has few other standout out candidates other than O'Driscoll, who led the tour to New Zealand three years ago. But Scotland legend Hastings, a veteran of two Lions tours, believes the 29-year-old Ireland centres commands the necessary respect to get the nod.
Speaking in the Leinster man's home city of Dublin the veteran Scottish player backed O'Driscoll to reclaim the captaincy following his ill-fated trip to New Zealand with the Lions three years ago.
An ambassador for British & Irish Lions sponsor HSBC, Hastings said: "You have to pick someone who is respected by his peers and who is likely to have a regular starting berth in the team and, for me, Brian is that man."
The 2005 Test series against the All Blacks was just moments old when O'Driscoll became the victim of a controversial spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu. Surgery was required to correct the damage sustained to his shoulder and O'Driscoll was furious at the way his tour was ended. His form has been patchy since - particularly last season - and his prospects of leading the Lions in South Africa had diminished as a result.
However Hastings, a veteran of two touring teams, also believes that O'Driscoll is showing signs of regaining the form that has seen him tour twice with the Lions in 2001 and 2005. He said: "You need to pick players who are in form, and following his performance for Leinster at the weekend, if you were to ask me to pick a captain now, it would be Brian O'Driscoll.
"If the Lions are to be successful this time around, you need players with strength of character and guys to lay down the law. If you look back at the last successful Lions tour in 1997, coaches like Jim Telfer and players such as Keith Wood were excellent at laying down what was required. It's all about getting the best from the players and Brian would be a fantastic man to do that."
Hastings, capped 61 times by Scotland, also backed coach Ian McGeechan to learn from the mistakes of Sir Clive Woodward's disastrous stewardship in New Zealand which resulted in a series whitewash.
He said: "Finding a blend is absolutely key - you are trying to put 15 guys together who haven't played together ever, starting afresh and asking them to perform with all the history and tradition. Sir Clive Woodward took too many players in 2005 to form any kind of unit but Ian McGeechan is too shrewd and too steeped in Lions history to make the same mistake.
"You look at the guys who played in the successful 1997 tour, such as Tom Smith, Jeremy Davidson, Keith Wood, they bonded as a team and that made all the difference. Geech is sure to repeat that trick this time around and will certainly pick those who are performing at the right time, and not those with the reputations - for me, that's the key."