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Thursday 13 December 2018

BOD and Umaga put past behind them to tackle future

Former Ireland and Kiwi foes united in expectation of titanic Aviva battle

CLOSURE: Tana Umaga and Brian O’Driscoll ahead of the game between Ireland and New Zealand this Saturday. Guinness brought together former All Black Umaga and former Irish star O’Driscoll to highlight the camaraderie of the sport. Photo: INPHO/ Dan Sheridan
CLOSURE: Tana Umaga and Brian O’Driscoll ahead of the game between Ireland and New Zealand this Saturday. Guinness brought together former All Black Umaga and former Irish star O’Driscoll to highlight the camaraderie of the sport. Photo: INPHO/ Dan Sheridan

Thirteen years later, the two outstanding 13s of their generation, Brian O'Driscoll and Tana Umaga, came together in anticipation of a seismic test match this Saturday.

The two men will be forever bonded in infamy for 'that tackle' which speared the British & Irish Lions' outside shot at overcoming New Zealand in the 2005 Test series.

"We were just chatting about it [the incident] the other night. I get asked about it all the time," said O'Driscoll.

"In any Q&A over the last 13 years, it is probably the one question I can guarantee.

"It was talked about last year because it was that 12-year cycle. We parked it a long time ago.

"It was one of those things. Was it unfortunate? Yeah. Should you have dealt with it slightly differently? Yeah.

"Listen, we're able to have a laugh and take the piss about it now, properly.

Refreshing

"Actually, to have a get together and chew the fat and properly get to talk and not feel scarred by it is refreshing and, I hope, it's dead after this," he said.

Lest you've forgotten, Umaga was the joint agent beside Keven Mealamu in lifting and driving O'Driscoll to the ground in the first Test with enough force to cause a shoulder dislocation and the end of the Lions captain's tour.

No penalty. No card. No citing. No suspension.

How times have changed in rugby and how Umaga now shares O'Driscoll's capacity to be able to look back and laugh about it.

"We had a great dinner. That was the key thing for us, to have time together," Umaga said.

"You pass each other fleetingly at matches and engagements. To chew the fat around that was great.

"That's just part of this game.

"We can't change the past. Yet, it is something whenever I do something that I get asked about."

This week is all about the present - and 2019 in Japan - and how Ireland and New Zealand cope with a momentous week.

The pain of the All Blacks' first defeat to the Irish in Chicago in 2016 is still fresh in the mind of Umaga.

"You learn a lot from the scars that you get," he said.

"If you think it was a nick, you can get complacent and see it as just an anomaly.

"If the scar is deep enough, you get to learn a lot more out of it.

"For us, the first time that it's happened scars you deeply when you are part of the side that has created history, not the history that you want.

"For me, I would say it would scar them deeply.

"They want to make sure that they can put things right in their minds."

New Zealand were lucky enough to get out of Twickenham with a one-point victory over England last weekend.

A loss there would have added even more weight to the argument on Saturday as it would have jeopardised the Kiwis' number-one world ranking status.

"They probably haven't had the overwhelming performance that they wanted," said Umaga, about New Zealand's season.

"As everyone knows from experience, everything leading up to a World Cup is very important.

"Everything in between, we say, is very important. But, we understand you are judged every four years.

"Some of the scars that run deep within the All Blacks, they have learned from that. I would say, they are not where they want to be.

"But, you don't want to be where you want to be a year before the World Cup.

"We look at it like that.

"The expectation from everyone around the world and within our country, even more so, is that we play, we win and we win well.

"Sometimes, it's just not like that."

Ireland were able to do to New Zealand in 2016 what they could never do with O'Driscoll.

The stalling of England's development under Eddie Jones in tandem with the forward and upward motion of Joe Schmidt's Ireland makes this the stand-out November international.

"Yea, I think it's become that fixture, hasn't it, over the course of the last seven or eight months," stated O'Driscoll.

"A year ago everyone in the northern hemisphere was talking about England-the All Blacks. That's shifted.

"It's a chance to fire shots in advance of what could be next year," he said.

"We've got to navigate a lot more of getting beyond the obstacles of not doing anything beyond a quarter-final."

A second win in three matches against the All Blacks would make a serious psychological dent.

"It's another shot in the arm isn't it, if you are able to beat the All Blacks for a second time," added O'Driscoll

"They [the Irish management team] are trying to instil that these players aren't infallible, they really aren't.

"I don't have experience of winning against the All Blacks in games but, in winning tournaments, breaking the seal is the hard thing."

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