Howley urges Lions to ‘put Wallabies to bed’
Lions assistant coach cites centre Brian O’Driscoll as inspiration as team stand on the brink of historic first series win in 16 years
Assistant coach Rob Howley on Friday warned the British & Irish Lions to put the Wallabies "to bed" and not endure his nightmare memories of losing a series in Australia from a position of strength.
The Lions enter today's pivotal second test one-up in the three-test series after a titanic 23-21 win in last weekend's Brisbane opener and can clinch their first series in 16 years with victory.
Welshman Howley was scrumhalf when the Lions were in a similar position on their last visit to Australia 12 years ago, only to lose the final two tests and the series to the Wallabies. Howley said inspirational Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll, the sole survivor from the 2001 tour, has spoken to the current Lions this week about seizing the opportunity of inflicting a series triumph.
"Brian O'Driscoll has been hugely influential, I think his experience of 2001 - you learn from those experiences and we spoke of those experiences yesterday," Howley said.
"There's probably one player that deserves it more than anyone else and that is Brian O'Driscoll. He's been fantastic for northern hemisphere rugby, world rugby, but it just shows how hard it is to win a series."
Howley played in the first two tests of the 2001 series when the Wallabies fought back to win the second test 35-14 before taking the decider in Sydney 29-23.
"I've never had the opportunity again, they don't come round too often," Howley said. "I think you can only look at Brian O'Driscoll, that was 12 years ago, a guy who has won Six Nations, grand slams, Heineken Cups. The one trophy that's missing is winning a Lions series.
"That's what he was talking about yesterday, just make sure we don't have any regrets over the next 24-48 hours. Make sure it happens the way we want it to happen."
Howley said there was an attitude within the camp to finish the job against the Wallabies, who face a do-or-die battle to take it to a series decider next week.
"Backs against the wall, wounded Wallaby, they're going to come out and play. High risk, high reward," he said. "You talk about 80 games of one minute, that's the concentration levels you'll need.
"There's no doubt the Wallabies will come out and they'll want to play rugby, that's the only way they like to play."
Howley said the Lions would need to focus on the job, saying there was "a learning curve" which started with their narrow victory last weekend.
"Obviously, Australia will offer us something different, that's for sure," he said. "We have to be alert, not let them take quick penalties, not allow them to take quick lineouts. It's about being totally aware all the time."
The assistant coach said the team had to grab the opportunity to clinch the three-test series.
"I think there's an attitude to go 2-0, that's what we've been talking about in the week. That's what Brian O'Driscoll said, you have to take that opportunity. We're 1-0 up and we could put Australia to bed tomorrow night, that's our mindset.
"If you dare to dream it turns into a nightmare because if you think about what you're going to create or what possibly is in the future, that doesn't happen."
Howley defended the team management's decision to make five changes to a winning team for Saturday's crucial game.
"I think there's an old adage about not changing a winning team but over the last six weeks we've spoken about picking the best players available," he said.
"We've rested players when we've needed to and the selection in some situations is tough, but we want to pick the best team available to take on Australia and I think we've done that."