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Tuiliagi pairing excites O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll has described the prospect of partnering midfield powerhouse Manu Tuilagi against Western Force on Wednesday as "an exciting feeling".

Both players make their 2013 British and Irish Lions tour bows in a team O'Driscoll will captain, and they have a tough act to follow after Wales centres Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts shone during Saturday's demolition of the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

England star Tuilagi might be 12 years younger than O'Driscoll, played in 104 fewer Tests and never previously worn the famous red Lions shirt, but his arrival on the scene is eagerly awaited. "It is a very exciting prospect playing with him," O'Driscoll said.

"He has got a really good range to his game. People see the strong ball-carrier in him and destructive tackler when he makes contact, but he has an array of skills that probably don't get the credit they deserve.

"It is definitely an exciting feeling partnering him and I am looking forward to our first outing. We are very, very strong in the centre. The two (Welsh) boys played well in very difficult conditions and now the baton is passed to myself and Manu to try to stake our claim."

Tuilagi is also looking forward to the new partnership and revealed his admiration for O'Driscoll.

"For me, it is an honour to be selected and be playing with a legend like him. I'm very excited," Tuilagi said. "Saturday's game against the Barbarians went really well. The boys who played set the bar really high and it's an opportunity for us players on Wednesday to keep that bar high.

"I remember his (O'Driscoll's) try against Australia (at Brisbane in 2001) for the Lions, so it is amazing to play alongside him."

The Lions experience is all new to Tuilagi, with Wednesday's eagerly awaited debut one that could see him lay down a Test series marker. "I am just taking everything in and trying to make the most of this experience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Tuilagi added.

"Every player who gets picked for the Lions is at the top of their game. You have to make the right decisions for the team - to carry or give the ball or whatever. It's not about the individual, it's about winning these games."


From Belfast Telegraph