Tag Archives: irish

Six Nations 2013: Brian O"Driscoll banned for three weeks after stamp on Simone Favaro

Ireland star O'Driscoll given three-week ban for stamping on Italy openside Favaro

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

15:08 GMT, 20 March 2013

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UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 20 March 2013

Brian O’Driscoll was yesterday banned for just three weeks for stamping on Italy’s Simone Favaro due to his exemplary disciplinary record.

A Six Nations disciplinary panel reduced an intended ban of five weeks after hearing mitigation from the veteran Ireland centre, who said it was only his second yellow card in a 14-year professional career.

Ouch: Brian O'Driscoll was sin-binned for this stamp during Ireland's final Six Nations clash

Ouch: Brian O'Driscoll was sin-binned for this stamp during Ireland's final Six Nations clash

Cooling off: O'Driscoll spent ten minutes watching the match

Cooling off: O'Driscoll spent ten minutes watching the match

O’Driscoll, who can appeal, will miss Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final at Wasps on Friday, April 5.

The 34-year-old, who has indicated he
may retire following the Lions tour, was yellow-carded after he stamped
on the chest of Favaro in Italy’s win over Ireland in the Six Nations
last Saturday.

At the hearing, the 2005 Lions captain admitted he had committed an act of foul play but denied it warranted a red card.

Sendoff O'Driscoll could have appeared for the final time in the Six Nations

Sendoff O'Driscoll could have appeared for the final time in the Six Nations

However, the panel, chaired by Welsh
official Robert Williams, upheld the citing complaint and decided the
offence should have been punished with a sending-off.

Meanwhile, London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph will join Bath at the end of the season.

Jane Mangan unseated by Oscar Delta yards from victory at Cheltenham Festival

Misery for Mangan as Oscar Delta unseats teenage rider… just yards from winning post at Cheltenham Festival

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

16:55 GMT, 15 March 2013

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UPDATED:

17:53 GMT, 15 March 2013

Teenage jockey Jane Mangan had victory snatched from her grasp in the Foxhunter Chase as Oscar Delta unseated her as they powered towards the finish.

In the amateur version of the Gold Cup, Oscar Delta jinked to the left, hitting
the rope where there was no permanent rail and the daughter of trainer
Jimmy Mangan was unshipped, leaving favourite Salsify to take advantage.

So far so good: Oscar Delta looked unbeatable approaching the line...

So far so good: Oscar Delta looked unbeatable approaching the line…

... but after jinking to the left he collided with the rail and there was no way back for Jane Mangan....

… but after jinking to the left he collided with the rail and there was no way back for Jane Mangan….

... but he jinked to the left and collided with the rail and there was no way back for Jane Mangan....

...and it was left to Salsify to claim the honours

…and it was left to Salsify to claim the honours

It was a cruel blow for punters who had backed Oscar Delta, 20-1 at the off, and Irish firm Paddy Power are refunding bets on the Mangan runner.

Creevytennant set the pace but continually jumped out to the right and he was still in front until the fourth-last where Oscar Delta took it up.

The 10-year-old pulled away from Salsify after the third-last fence and jumped the last with a handy lead.

He looked set for victory until it turned into defeat and agony for connections.

Colman Sweeney was able to coast his mount, trained by his father Rodger, over the line 20 lengths ahead of Divine Intavention with Cottage Oak a neck away in third.

Head in hands: Jane Mangan can't believe her bad luck after crashing off Oscar Delta in the Foxhunter Chase

Head in hands: Jane Mangan can't believe her bad luck after crashing off Oscar Delta in the Foxhunter Chase

Just her pride that's hurt: Mangan just seconds after the fall that cost her victory in the Foxhunter Chase

There, there: Mangan is consoled after bowing out of the Foxhunter Chase with victory in sight

Just her pride that's hurt: Mangan after the fall that cost her victory in the Foxhunter Chase

Just her pride that's hurt: Mangan after the fall that cost her victory in the Foxhunter Chase

Salsify is the first back-to-back winner of the amateur riders' Gold cup since Double Silk in 193-94.

Sweeney jnr said: 'God was on my side, I feel sorry for Jane, though. I did feel he was going to rally but I probably wouldn't have got there.

'This horse is a different horse on decent ground, he didn't feel the same at all on soft.

'He can be very keen so I dropped him right out until I got settled and then he jumped into it.

'He does rally and stay on but I think Jane would have won.

'I'd like to dedicate this to John Thomas (McNamara) as everything we do we do for love. He was one of the senior boys when I first started and he still is. We're all thinking of him.'

Sweeney snr said: 'It was very lucky and I'm gutted for Jane who is a good friend of ours and a very polished rider.

'Our fellow didn't like the ground but he kept trying his best but Jimmy Mangan should have been the winner.'

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Danny Cipriani edges out Gavin Henson in relegation battle

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Cipriani comes edges out Henson in relegation battle

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 17 February 2013

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UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Gavin versus Danny proved to be an evenly-fought sideshow at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday in a raw relegation battle.

Sale edged the tussle thanks to tries either side of half-time which helped them to only their fourth Premiership win of the season.

If their careers had gone to plan Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani would have been preparing for Six Nations games rather than being rival club fly halves as they attempt to rebuild careers.

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow relegation strugglers

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow strugglers

Both enjoyed impressive games. Henson
took the London Welsh sponsor’s man-of-the-match award, but it was
Cipriani’s Sale who emerged victorious in a fraught, penalty–strewn
game.

‘Relief, that’s the best word,’ said
Steve Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby. ‘But we are still bottom and
have Harlequins and Leicester to come in the next two weeks so we are
not out of the mire.’

Yet Sale are daring to hope at the
bottom of the 12-team competition. This was a second successive win,
following a similar triumph over Exeter, and four points here put them a
point behind 11th-placed London Irish and three off Welsh.

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

And there is
no doubting that in Cipriani they have an attacking No 10 who could yet
lead them to safety.

He helped make a crucial try for
scrum-half Will Cliff just before half-time, producing the acceleration
and distribution, alongside wing Charlie Amesbury, which gained him
England recognition.

He also kicked 13 points before being
replaced by Nick Macleod who is considered to be more dependable and a
better defender for such tense finales.

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Henson, playing his first full game in
three months due to injury, also produced play that brought back
memories of his best days for Wales. He landed one long-distance penalty
attempt and set up wing Phil Mackenzie for his team’s only try in the
48th minute.

It was a beautifully-timed pass by
Henson whose conversion put Welsh 22-20 ahead. He then banged over a
second penalty to increase the lead to 25-20 only for Cipriani to reply
in the 60th minute.

It was Cipriani’s last contribution,
Macleod kicking the penalty nine minutes from time which put his team a
decisive 26-25 ahead.

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Welsh’s head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘We
just did not take our chances when we had them.’ After Cipriani put
Sale ahead in the ninth minute, Welsh fed off Sale’s poor discipline
for Alex Davies to kick three penalty goals followed by Henson’s
long-distance toe-bunger.

But it was a series of rash Welsh errors which allowed Sale back.

Cipriani kicked another penalty and then escaped down the right, with Amesbury, to make Cliff’s try

Sale continued on the attack after the
break and Dan Braid, an impressive arrival from New Zealand, scampered
in for the second try.

Welsh regained the lead when Henson made Mackenzie’s try but Sale held their nerve.

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Lee Mears retires because of heart condition

Former England and Lions hooker Mears forced to retire because of heart condition

By
Duncan Bech, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

11:36 GMT, 11 February 2013

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UPDATED:

11:44 GMT, 11 February 2013

Former England hooker Lee Mears has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to a heart condition.

An abnormality known to occur in some athletes was discovered during a cardiac screening completed by the 33-year-old Bath front row, who announced his international retirement last year.

'There is a significant potential risk of developing further complications if Lee continues to perform the prolonged strenuous exercises required to be an elite rugby player,' read a statement issued by Bath.

A great shame: Lee Mears has been forced to retire because of a heart condition

A great shame: Lee Mears has been forced to retire because of a heart condition

'He has therefore been advised by a specialist to retire from professional rugby.'

More to follow.

Over the line: Mears scores a try for the British and Irish Lions

Over the line: Mears scores a try for the British and Irish Lions

Warren Gatland discusses Lions selection

It wouldn't bother me if I picked 15 English players, says Lions head coach Gatland

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 29 December 2012

Warren Gatland will travel to Australia from his New Zealand home this week as his quest to become the first British and Irish Lions head coach in 16 years to win a Test series begins in earnest.

The 49-year-old former All Black hooker and current Wales head coach, a man who helped Waikato to a 38-10 win over the Lions in 1993, plans to share a beer with fellow Kiwi and Wallaby head coach Robbie Deans when the Lions backroom staff conduct a reconnaissance trip Down Under before returning ahead of a Six Nations tournament that will define his squad selection.

There are so many questions to be answered, such as the make-up of the back row. ‘Can you pick it’ Gatland asks. ‘Because right now I haven’t got a clue.’

Fill the shirt: Head coach Warren Gatland is planning a recce Down Under before picking his Lions squad

Fill the shirt: Head coach Warren Gatland is planning a recce Down Under before picking his Lions squad

But in many areas the former Ireland coach, who also led Wasps to domestic and European success and twice guided Wales to Grand Slams, has made up his mind.

Take the composition of the squad. ‘I’d imagine there will be 35 players made up of a 19 to 16 split between forwards and backs, possibly 20 to 15,’ he reveals. ‘We’ll have three hookers, three 9s, three 10s and an extra prop. It means that in nearly all other positions there’ll be two players fighting it out for one spot.’

Gatland is adamant all four home nations will be represented in the squad, but all politics will go out of the window when it comes to the Test starting XV. ‘It wouldn’t bother me if I picked 15 Englishmen if I thought they were best equipped to beat Australia,’ he says. ‘I don’t think the make-up of the team is the main criteria for getting the job done, although I believe all four nations should have representations in the squad for the morale of the tour. That’s why I hope that Scotland enjoy a good Six Nations because I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say representation for the Scots is challenging.’

In deciding his best approach, Gatland has sought advice from two of his predecessors; Sir Ian McGeechan, his boss on the 2009 tour to South Africa that ended in narrow defeat, and fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, who was also Wales coach when he led an ultimately unsuccessful tour to Australia in 2001.

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

Lion's share: England will be represented in the starting XV

‘Graham told me that coaching the Lions gave him some of the most valuable lessons he ever learned, lessons that he put to good use when he won the World Cup last year for New Zealand,’ says Gatland. ‘He also boosted my confidence by saying how I’m miles more experienced than he was at this point. He was appointed Lions coach 18 months after taking over in Wales. I’ve been coaching in the Northern Hemisphere for the vast majority of the last 24 years.

‘New Zealand try to claim me as a Kiwi coach but, while I was a Kiwi player, I’m most definitely a Northern Hemisphere coach, and very proud to be so.’

The memories of four years ago when Gatland, as forwards coach under McGeechan, saw the Lions lose narrowly are still raw. ‘I’m still hurting from that,’ he says. ‘I recall the tiniest of details, like a lineout the ref deemed wasn’t straight to a Bryan Habana try. I’ll swear until my very last day it was straight.

‘And I’ll never know how Schalk Burger wasn’t sent off, or at the very least sent to the bin, for gouging in the second Test.

‘But I’m proud of what we achieved in 2009 when we put the pride back into the Lions jersey, and regained the respect from the rest of world rugby.’

Second coming: Gatland was part of the Lions coaching team in 2009

Second coming: Gatland was part of the Lions coaching team in 2009

This is in reference to the ill-fated tour of New Zealand in 2005 when Sir Clive Woodward split management and playing staff into midweek and Test groups, resulting in a 3-0 series whitewash.

Gatland, in the forefront of the modern game when it comes to coaching Wales, is more of a traditionalist with the Lions.

‘You have to be more old school for a scratch team who meet up the day after many have played in cup finals and who have been kicking lumps out of each other just a few weeks before,’ he says.

‘Every member of the squad will get to start one of the first three games. That way they won’t throw their toys out of the pram like they did in 2005. It will be good for squad morale.

‘Likewise, I’ll make sure we have a few beers. We’ll have to get the balance right – obviously what happened with England at the World Cup didn’t work out too well – but it’s important the boys enjoy each other’s company and bond.’

For now, Gatland has to choose the right players. He intends to see all four countries as much as possible during the Six Nations, starting with England against Scotland at Twickenham on February 2. He also plans to watch training, although he is wary of his ties with Wales.

Class of 2013: Gatland with his coaches (L-R) Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell

Class of 2013: Gatland with his coaches (L-R) Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell

‘Stuart Lancaster has offered to let me spend a day watching England train, as has Declan Kidney with Ireland,’ he says. ‘It’s important people feel comfortable and know me well enough to realise I’m not going to go running back to Wales with trade secrets. That would insult me and the coaches’ integrity. If anything, my problem is trying not to be too hard on the Welsh to prove I’m totally unbiased.

‘The coach’s input is vital. I know the players and I can see their stats but I’ll need help to choose the right personalities, an ingredient just as important on a Lions tour.’

He wants consistency from all contenders during the Six Nations, something which has been lacking.

‘If I’d picked the squad after the 2012 Six Nations then there would have been a lot of Welsh Grand Slam winners in it,’ he adds. ‘After the autumn this wouldn’t be the case. If I have the England win over New Zealand in mind then a lot of those guys put their hand up.

‘If we get it right on and off the field we will have a hell of a team, and if that’s the case then we’ll beat Australia. It’s my job now to make sure that happens.’

Gloucester 18 Exeter 16: match report

Gloucester 18 Exeter 16: Burns' boot puts his side on top in frantic clash

PUBLISHED:

17:46 GMT, 22 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:50 GMT, 22 December 2012

Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns kicked six penalties to lead his side to victory over Exeter in their Aviva Premiership clash at Kingsholm.

Visiting hooker Simon Alcott scored the only try of a cracking clash, but the highly-rated England prospect Burns punished the Chiefs as Gloucester came from behind to win by two points.

Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson converted Alcott's try and added three penalties of his own but it was not enough.

Give 'em the boot: Freddie Burns was on good form and kicked several penalties for his side

Give 'em the boot: Freddie Burns was on good form and kicked several penalties for his side

Exeter arrived at Kingsholm buoyed by two excellent victories in the Premiership over the last month in claiming the scalps of both London Irish and Wasps that put them in a healthy mid-table position before kick-off.

The heat was on both sides as Gloucester were one place above the Chiefs in fifth and one point better off at the start, having beaten Sale Sharks last week.

The sell-out crowd were not disappointed either as both teams got to grips with each other at a frantic pace right from the start.

Burns struck first with a 30-metre attempt before Steenson landed a booming 35-metre effort from the left touchline and then put the Chiefs into a 6-3 lead with an easy 15-metre shot after an infringement by the Cherry and Whites.

Mud men: Gonzalo Camacho of Exeter is tackled by Jim Hamilton

Mud men: Gonzalo Camacho of Exeter is tackled by Jim Hamilton

Exeter had the most territory in the opening half-hour as their front five, lead by props Brett Sturgess and the huge tight-head Hoani Tui, thumped into the Gloucester midfield as scrum-half Haydn Thomas scampered the ball away at the breakdowns.

Gloucester found their way back into the match as the interval approached and nearly got the first try of the match when full-back Rob Cook played a delicate chip-and-chase over the head of the Exeter defence and, after pressure on the visitor's line, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan was held-up over the line.

Referee Llyr Ap Geraint Roberts brought play back for a Gloucester penalty which Burns booted to level the scores as tempers flared in the last seconds of the half, leading to a lecture for both captains.

It may not have been the high-scoring Premiership fiesta of last season at Kingsholm where the Cherry and Whites came home 37-23 but it was intense and engaging.

That's mine: Sione Kalamafoni of Gloucester takes the ball in a line out

That's mine: Sione Kalamafoni of Gloucester takes the ball in a line out

Burns put Gloucester six points ahead with two penalties after the teams resumed, much to the disgust of furious Chiefs coach Rob Baxter.

Exeter would not lay down, though, and, after Steenson landed a third penalty of the match, the Chiefs put pressure on the home side which eventually told as the Gloucester defence was breached as Alcott picked up a ball from a ruck and just got over the line to touch the ball down.

Steenson converted but he lead was cut soon afterwards to a single point as Burns landed his fifth penalty to set up a thrilling finale.

And fatally, Exeter went over the top of a ruck with seven minutes left, leaving Burns to boot his final penalty to put the Cherry and Whites back in front and see them to victory.

Mark Cueto believes Sale can perform an escape act inspired by their new coach

Cueto: We can perform the great escape despite record defeat in Europe

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UPDATED:

21:11 GMT, 20 December 2012

Sale resume their Aviva Premiership survival quest at Wasps on Sunday, on the back of a record defeat in Europe.

Losing 62-0 in Toulon was the lowest ebb this season, but Mark Cueto still believes the club can perform an escape act, inspired by their ‘intimidating’ new coach.

The former England wing was part of a side which was brutally put to the sword at Stade Felix Mayol last weekend, as Toulon amassed nearly a half-century of points in the second half.

Escape act: Former England wing Mark Cueto (pictured) is sure that Sale's new coach, John Mitchell will have a galvanising effect on the team as they attempt to avoid relegation

Escape act: Former England wing Mark Cueto (pictured) is sure that Sale's new coach, John Mitchell will have a galvanising effect on the team as they attempt to avoid relegation

Of all the grim setbacks in this troubled campaign, the massacre by the Med was the worst of all, leaving the Cheshire club in a dire state as they prepare to head to Adams Park.

Time is running out for the revival to commence. The only northern team in the Premiership lie at the foot of the table, six points adrift of 11th-placed London Irish, having won just one of their 10 league games so far.

Cueto has known plenty of high-stakes occasions with England and the Lions, as well as his club, over the years, and he is well aware of how much is on the line now.

Gruelling: Cueto is tackled during Sale's 62-0 defeat against Toulon, their heaviest ever defeat in the Heineken Cup

Gruelling: Sale's suffered a 62-0 defeat against Toulon, their heaviest ever defeat in the Heineken Cup

‘Our focus is on the Premiership — saving the club and saving our jobs,’ he said.

‘The defeat in Toulon was a massive disappointment but we have closed the door on it. We have to concentrate all our efforts on this fight for survival.

‘Deep down, I think our squad is too good to be relegated, but I’m also a realist and we’ve only won one of our 10 league games, so I do worry.

Galvanising: Cueto is sure that 'intimidating' new coach John Mitchell, a former All Black, will have a galvanising effect on the team as they fight to stay in the Aviva Premiership

Galvanising: Cueto is sure that 'intimidating' new coach John Mitchell, a former All Black, will have a galvanising effect on the team as they fight to stay in the Aviva Premiership

'I’ve got this season and one more on my contract, so I’m not sure if the situation we’re in is more worrying for me or a 21 or 22-year-old.

‘It’s probably more worrying for someone in my position, because at least they can move on. If the worst came to the worst and the club went down, I’m not sure what would happen, which is a huge worry.

'You have to think about those things but the main focus has to be on staying positive.’

A major concern stemming from the defeat in southern France last weekend is that it undid much of the positive work from the previous game against Toulon eight days earlier, when Sale had battled gamely before losing 17-6 at home.

That performance suggested that the arrival of former All Blacks coach John Mitchell was rapidly having a galvanising effect on Sale and Cueto insisted that the Kiwi’s impact has been positive, despite the result in France.

‘I still think we’ve moved forward in the last two weeks under John Mitchell,’ said the veteran wing.

‘Lots of the lads had pre-conceived ideas about John, but I don’t think he has lived up to the negative ideas people maybe had about him. He is an intense guy who has huge knowledge and experience.

'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. We’re not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas.

‘John is an intimidating bloke, but sometimes you need that — you can’t just all be best mates and getting on all the time. There has to be a boss; someone in charge. Any successful team in any sport has a guy like that.

‘I think he can instil the belief in us so that we can get out of this situation we’re in. We finished sixth last season and have added three or four good players, so we should be better than we were before, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

'We’re a much better side than we have shown so far, but if you lose four, five or six games on the trot, it starts to affect your belief and confidence.’

Bottom: Sale sit at the bottom of the Premiership table with just one win from their first 10 games

Bottom: Sale sit at the bottom of the Premiership table with just one win from their first 10 games

Cueto was candid in admitting that the club’s senior players are the ones who have let the side down, while rookies such as Ross Harrison and Tommy Taylor have performed admirably in trying circumstances.

Sale added quality signings in the summer, in the shape of Richie Gray and Danny Cipriani, while Eifion Lewis-Roberts returned from Toulon, but all these high-calibre component parts haven’t clicked into place yet.

They will have to soon, ideally against Wasps in High Wycombe, then five days later against Worcester in Salford.

‘We have two massive games coming up this weekend and next weekend, and we need two wins, really,’ said Cueto.

‘London Irish have Leicester at home and Quins away, so on form they should struggle, which means if we can pick up points against Wasps and Worcester, we should be in a much better position.

‘At this stage of the season, London Welsh don’t look like being the team who go down — it’s likely to be us or London Irish.

'But if we get a couple of wins, suddenly it can all turn around. If we win our next two and Irish lose their next two, then we can go ahead of them and would have momentum.

‘We really need to turn the corner soon. We’re under-achieving and we have to take that personally.

'I’ve been in this situation before with Sale and we’ve managed to fight our way out of it, but it’s not a pretty place to be.’

Cueto on Mitchell: 'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. Were not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas'

Cueto on Mitchell: 'The way he has focused the squad has been brilliant. Were not playing in a very different way, but he has brought in plenty of new ideas'

Brian O"Driscoll: I"d rather not be a Lion than lose in Australia

I'd rather not be a Lion than lose in Oz… After three torrid tours, Ireland legend
O'Driscoll says winning really IS everything

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UPDATED:

00:05 GMT, 19 December 2012

Brian O'Driscoll has no hesitation in turning an old sporting maxim on its head. It’s about winning, not just taking part.

Ireland's convalescing captain has no appetite for merely representing the Lions, he wants the series win which has eluded him.

The 33-year-old king of centres is recovering from ankle surgery and hopes to return to action with Leinster in early-to-mid January. Beyond that, he has his sights on leading his country into the Six Nations. Then and only then, the Lions tour to Australia next summer will loom large on his radar.

Leading light: Brian O'Driscoll is in the frame to be British and Irish Lions captain once again

Leading light: Brian O'Driscoll is in the frame to be British and Irish Lions captain once again

Leading light: Brian O'Driscoll is in the frame to be British and Irish Lions captain once again

But even at this stage of the season, his thoughts about the 2013 crusade under Warren Gatland’s command are clear. His ambitions are set in stone, certainly the one which overrides the rest.

O’Driscoll has already done the full cycle of Lions trips — to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He has savoured the occasions for their own sake, now he wants the prize. He has no desire to be a loser left with the consolation of more caps and tarnished memories.

‘It’s not a matter of just making a Lions squad,’ he said. ‘If you said, “You can go on the trip, but you are not going to win the series”, I would have no interest in going. The only reason to go on another Lions trip would be to win the series — to do something I haven’t done before.

‘I’ve been to Australia before, I’ve seen the places, it’s great. But I can go on my holidays and do that. It’s all about winning the series. I have one Lions victory in six Tests, which isn’t anything to shout about. I don’t want to go on four Lions tours and win none of them. People don’t remember losing Lions tours, they only remember winning tours.’

O’Driscoll acknowledged that his own mindset is a reflection of his status as a veteran who has been there and done it all as a Lion – almost. ‘Different guys will go at different stages of their careers and some will go with the excitement of the trip, but I’ve had that,’ he added. ‘I just want to win one. We need to win one. They are wonderful trips, but they are unsustainable if the home nation always wins.’

Wizard of Oz: O'Driscoll burst onto the scene with the Lions during the Tour to Australia in 2001

Wizard of Oz: O'Driscoll burst onto the scene with the Lions during the Tour to Australia in 2001

In his view, the challenge is greater now for the hastily-prepared tourists than it ever was but O’Driscoll is adamant that the squad who head Down Under have it in them to beat the Wallabies.

After all, he was part of the team so agonisingly denied by the Springboks in 2009 — suffering narrow defeats in Durban and Pretoria before winning the finale in Johannesburg without the Irishman, who had gone home injured.

Four years earlier, O’Driscoll was captain, but his series against the All Blacks amounted to less than one minute before he was brutally spear-tackled by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu in the first Test in Christchurch. Now, his name is once again being mentioned among the potential skippers.

If asked to take on leadership duties again, as only the second man after Martin Johnson to land the job twice, he would do so, while mindful of the burden that goes with the role.

‘It would be impossible to turn down the opportunity if I was asked to be captain again,’ said O’Driscoll. ‘It’s too great an honour to contemplate turning down, but there is a lot of pressure on the Lions captain. Having been captain on a tour, then toured when I’m not captain, it is very different.

Ill-fated: The Irishman led the Lions in New Zealand in 2005 but was injured after just one minute of the first Test

Ill-fated: The Irishman led the Lions in New Zealand in 2005 but was injured after just one minute of the first Test

Agony: O'Driscoll was carried off after a shocking spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu

Agony: O'Driscoll was carried off after a shocking spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu

VIDEO: The shocking spear tackle on Lions captain O'Driscoll

‘It was a lot more relaxing just being another player, I was able to enjoy it, there was less scrutiny. It is tough, being captain, but you have to try to enjoy it and just be yourself. Whoever does the job this time, he has to use the leadership group around him. Your captain needs to be starting in the Test team, and it is difficult to say at this stage that there is anyone in Britain and Ireland who is guaranteed to be starting.’

It was on the Lions tour to Australia in 2001 that O’Driscoll burst to wider prominence with his try-scoring contribution to victory in the series opener in Brisbane. But he had already announced his Test emergence with a hat-trick for Ireland in Paris in 2000. His Test debut came at the age of 20, as abundant promise was recognised by the-then national coach — Gatland.

Knowing the Kiwi so well, O’Driscoll is convinced the Wales coach can galvanise the best of British and Irish into a winning combination.

‘Warren has earned his stripes, with Wales at the World Cup last year and coming off the back of that with a Grand Slam,’ he said. ‘He has won two Slams with them. He has also been successful with Wasps, then went back to New Zealand and won an NPC, so he deserves that Lions role. Gats is a confident guy. He will instill a belief in his team and he’ll get them in the right place to win the series.’

In vain: The centre was brilliant in South Africa four years ago but the series ended in defeat again

In vain: The centre was brilliant in South Africa four years ago but the series ended in defeat again

In time, O’Driscoll will give careful consideration to his plans, to the tricky decision about whether to retire at the end of this season or play on. Even though he relishes the daily fun of being a ‘33-year-old kid’, he knows that the next World Cup in 2015 is beyond him, but the Lions tour certainly isn’t. When he is back in action, he will set about reminding Gatland of his enduring class, but with a view to winning in Australia, not just taking part.

Brian O’Driscoll was speaking on behalf of HSBC. As proud Principal Partner of The British & Irish Lions on their tour to Australia next year, HSBC is offering all customers an exclusive 30% discount on the official replica Lions jersey at https://store.lionsrugby.com/discount

VIDEO: Kevin Quigley's photoshoot with O'Driscoll

Toby Flood not fazed by threat to England place

Flood not fazed by threat to England place with No 10 ready to return for Leicester

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 19 December 2012

England fly-half Toby Flood insists he is not worried by the increasing competition for his international place.

Flood is fit to play for Leicester after overcoming a toe injury sustained in England’s defeat by South Africa last month.

Owen Farrell and Freddie Burns were impressive in his absence against New Zealand but Flood is not fazed.

Blow: Toby Flood missed England's triumph over the All Blacks with injury

Blow: Toby Flood missed England's triumph over the All Blacks with injury

‘I’m not fussed about it. It’s the way it goes. It seemed like a good one (the All Blacks match) to miss in terms of the way they were playing,’ he joked. ‘But credit to the lads, the way they finished off was very impressive. I just want to get back.’

Flood, who started England’s first three autumn matches, looks set to regain his Leicester place ahead of England Under 20 fly-half George Ford for the Aviva Premiership match at London Irish on Saturday.

A goal-kicking record of nearly 79 per cent this season makes Flood Leicester’s No 1, despite the promise of Ford, whose accuracy is only around 59 per cent. Leicester also hope to have England flanker Tom Croft back on duty over the holiday period.

He has been pencilled in for a comeback in the home game against Gloucester on December 29.

Croft has not played since April because of a neck injury and his comeback will be carefully managed. ‘It’s a matter of getting his confidence back,’ said Leicester’s director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

Bath"s Matt Banahan banned until Christmas

Bath's Banahan banned until Christmas after pleading guilty to dangerous tackle against Leicester

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UPDATED:

01:09 GMT, 5 December 2012

The fall-out from the fiery Aviva Premiership clash between Leicester and Bath saw three players suspended on a busy night for rugby's judiciary.

Bath centre Matt Banahan was banned until Christmas after pleading guilty to a dangerous tackle on Anthony Allen, which saw him become one of three players sent off at Welford Road.

Banahan's three-week ban will rule him out of Bath's Amlin Challenge Cup home and away fixtures against Calvisano and the Premiership game against Saracens.

Banned: Matt Banahan is out until Christmas after picking up a ban

Banned: Matt Banahan is out until Christmas after picking up a ban

Leicester flanker Brett Deacon saw red for punching Banahan in retaliation for the tackle and he was banned for one week, ruling him out of the Tigers' Heineken Cup match against Treviso this weekend.

Bath flanker Francois Louw, the first player to be sent off in the match after assistant referee ruled he had elbowed Geordan Murphy, had his citing dismissed.

But Bath hooker Lee Mears was banned for two weeks, having been cited following Leicester's 17-12 victory for punching or striking an opponent.

Seeing red: Brett Deacon has been banned for one week after his red card

Seeing red: Brett Deacon has been banned for one week after his red card

Mears will miss Bath's European fixtures but he will be available to face Saracens at The Rec on December 22.

The biggest suspension of the night was the five weeks handed down to London Irish number eight Chris Hala'Ufia for a dangerous tackle on London Welsh player Seb Jewell.

The Tongan was dismissed for the challenge just 10 minutes into his side's 15-9 Aviva Premiership defeat by London Welsh on December 1.

Hala'Ufia is banned until January 7 and he will miss the Exiles' home and away Challenge Cup fixtures against Gloucester plus three Premiership matches.