British and Irish Lions hero Jeremy Davidson's advice for 2013 Test
You can do it, boys. Just keep your feet on the ground, stay focused, fight fire with fire and write your names into the history books as a result.”
That was the advice former British & Irish Lions hero, Jeremy Davidson, offered the Class of 2013 ahead of tomorrow’s opening Test against Australia at the Suncorp Stadium.
Davidson - whose comrades-in-arms voted him the player of the 1997 tour of South Africa where he excelled in all three Tests and was a key performer in his side’s 2-1 series triumph – has no doubt that Warren Gatland’s men are good enough to match the heroics of 16 years ago.
The line-out lynchpin of the Lions’ last series win is convinced that two of the four Irishmen in tomorrow’s starting 15 for the Brisbane curtain-raiser will exert a massive influence for good. Davidson, now 39, believes that former Lions captains Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell will have huge parts to play in helping steer the tourists to victory.
The former Dungannon lock, whose 1997 shirt is on permanent display at Stevenson Park, said: “You don’t have to throw all the eggs out of the basket because the mid-week team lost to one of the best sides in the Super 15. You have to keep things in perspective.
“There will be huge belief in the Lions’ dressing-room; why wouldn’t there be? There will be people in that room who know what it’s all about.
“Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll have captained past Lions sides. They’re past-masters who know what it’s all about so they will play a huge role in helping to keep this side’s feet on the ground.”
Davidson has every confidence in the 2013 Lions’ ability to triumph, starting by winning the all-important first Test.
“It’s a big occasion, but the Lions have the players who are capable of stepping up to the mark – even those who haven’t played Tests before,” he forecast. “They’re all experienced internationals and every single one of them will want to perform to the best of their ability.
“As well as being their chance to do it at the highest level as individuals, they have a massive opportunity to make this a successful tour for the team. It has been successful up until now – one defeat doesn’t make the tour a shambles, nor does it pose problems, hopefully.”
The fact that tomorrow’s line-up includes eight Test debutants does not worry 39-year-old Davidson
“There’s unbelievable talent there, even among the inexperienced guys,” said the Methodist College past-pupil and former Ulster forwards’ coach now earning his living in France as coach of Division 2 Aurillac.
Highlighting the calibre of the players he enthused: “Guys like (Alex) Corbisiero, the hooker (Tom) Youngs, that back row combination with (Jamie) Heaslip on fire, (Jonny) Sexton who has really put his marker down as the number one 10, (Jonathan) Davies who has probably been the most consistent player on the tour so far – he has played more minutes than anybody else – George North on the wing is a player you’d love to have in any team you were going to coach.”
Nor does he feel there will be any pessimism. “The Lions’ dressing-room will not be a negative place at all, regardless of that defeat in mid-week. I’d imagine it will be a buoyant dressing-room. The fact that they’ve got three Tests to play against Australia is something to be upbeat about,” he said.
“They are good enough to win this series. When you look at that Test team it’s mouth-watering. The quality is there and the experience through the backbone of the team is phenomenal.
“These guys are on the top of their game and on top form. All they have to do now is go out and prove it at Test level. The itty-bitty games are over, they’re out the window now.
“Now it’s the big-time. The Tests are what these tours are about. This is what the guys have gone there for. Now they get their chance to write history.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital