Brian O’Driscoll wants Lions to keep up momentum
The skipper calls on his touring party to keep up momentum from Hong Kong when they meet an under-strength Western Force in Perth
The British and Irish Lions' Australian campaign begins today, with captain Brian O'Driscoll demanding a dominant display against an under-strength Western Force in Perth.
Tour captain Sam Warburton will return to full training today, while Welsh prop Gethin Jenkins took part in all of yesterday's session in a major boost for his test ambitions.
Flanker Warburton, a certain starter for the three games against Australia, missed the opening 59-8 win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday because of a knee problem and has completed limited solo training in Perth with his leg heavily strapped.
Jenkins was also absent in Hong Kong because of a lingering calf issue but both will be in contention to play against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
"Gethin trained fully and Sam will train fully tomorrow, he didn't quite do everything today but he will be fine for tomorrow," Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree said yesterday.
The duo will sit out today's first match on Australian soil for 12 years against the Western Force at Subiaco Oval.
The combined might of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have failed to win a series since beating the Springboks in 1997 but they head into the Perth game on a high after crushing the Barbarians 59-8 in Hong Kong at the weekend.
"We're in a good place, I think we've got a strong squad and there's huge competition for places so you don't want to have any individual or collective bad performances at this stage, you want to try to build towards that first test match [on June 22]," O'Driscoll said.
The 131-times capped Irish legend is keen to set an example as he forms a new centre pairing with England's Manu Tuilagi.
"It's definitely an exciting feeling partnering him and I'm looking forward to our first outing," said O'Driscoll, who is on his fourth Lions tour and back in the city where he made his Lions debut against a Western Australian XV at the start of the 2001 tour.
Lining up opposite him and the English new boy will be two Force rookies in Ed Stubbs and Chris Tuatara-Morrison, who have only six Super Rugby appearances between them.
With a Super 15 clash against NSW Waratahs looming next weekend, Force have rested a host of big names, including fullback Jayden Hayward, prop Pek Cowan, centre Kyle Godwin, and hooker Heath Tessmann.
In addition, Nick Cummins and Ben McCalman could not be chosen due to Wallabies duties.
While nobody expects to see a similar score to the one in 2001, when O'Driscoll crossed for the Lions' 18th and final try in a 116-10 massacre of the Western Australian XV, the tourists will be looking for another big win.
Rowntree dismissed concerns about the supposed poor quality of opposition, with his focus centred on his own players and trying to gel his pack.
"We're very respectful of the opposition but we're wary of getting our detail right and our structures up and running because this is another starting 15 for us," the former England prop said.
The Lions have only four games before the first test, leaving Jenkins and Warburton with little time to find form.
"We have said to the guys that everyone will get a start in the first three games," Rowntree said when asked if he was concerned time was running out. "After the Reds game on Saturday, we will have to start making a few decisions on combinations."
15 Sam Christie, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Ed Stubbs, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Corey Brown, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Phoenix Battye, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Salesi Manu.
Replacements: Hugh Roach, Sione Kolo, Tim Metcher, Ben Matwijow, Lachlan McCaffrey, Alby Mathewson, Nick Haining, Junior Rasolea.