Sun. May 10th, 2020

Former captain Paul O’Connell says it will be vital for the British & Irish Lions to pick a leader capable of beating the Springboks at their own game.

Former captain Paul O’Connell says it will be vital for the British & Irish Lions to pick a leader capable of beating the Springboks at their own game next year.
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The former Ireland lock, who captained the Lions when they lost the 2009 series 2-1 to the Springboks, says it will be a unique experience touring South Africa and they therefore need a particular personality type as leader.
“When you go South Africa you probably need someone confrontational because that is their DNA. You have to have a tactic to beat South Africa, to trick them,” O’Connell said, as quoted by the Lions’ official website.
“But you certainly have to take them on confrontationally as well. If they begin to get on top of you in the collisions their belief begins to grow, as we saw in the World Cup final. You need to take them on and you need a captain that will drive that philosophy as well.”
O’Connell, who also toured with the Lions to New Zealand in 2005 and Australia in 2013, mentioned the names of England lock Maro Itoje and flyhalf Owen Farrell as candidates.
“He (Itoje) is the kind of player you want playing against South Africa. He is a world-class athlete and a phenomenal second-row forward. I like watching him play, he is always pushing the limits. I am surprised he does not give away more penalties than he does.
“He is always pushing at the rucks, around the offside line and is brilliant at collapsing mauls, brilliant at stopping teams mauling. He is a real pleasure to watch in that regard. But I do not know what he is like in the dressing room, what he is like in terms of leadership and leading a group of men.”
Regarding Farrell, who was England’s captain when they lost last year’s Rugby World Cup final 32-12 to South Africa in Yokohama, O’Connell stated: “I know a lot of people feel that you need a second-rower or a front-row forward captaining the side when you take on SA, but a player like Owen Farrell has that abrasive attitude as well.
“He is also very experienced now in terms of taking on Southern Hemisphere teams and beating them. He has obviously also had that tough experience against South Africa in the World Cup, so he is someone who springs to mind.”
O’Connell, 40, played 115 Tests in an illustrious career which included 108 for Ireland and seven for the Lions.
He retired from professional rugby in 2016 before going into coaching – he was an assistant coach for the Ireland under-20 side (2017-18) and forwards coach at French giants Stade Francais (2018-19).
He currently works as a rugby pundit and commentator for BBC Sport.
– Compiled by Herman Mostert