Monday 18 December 2017

O'Brien not buying into All Black invincibility

Lions flanker Sean O’Brien. Photo: Getty Images
Lions flanker Sean O’Brien. Photo: Getty Images

Sean O'Brien bristled with bravado when asked about the historical 'aura of invincibility' surrounding the All Blacks.

"An aura? In terms of what?" was O'Brien's straight-faced reply ahead of this morning's examination of the Lions by the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua.

This question was possibly put in relation to former Ireland number eight Denis Leamy's claim that there was an 'unbeatable' aura about New Zealand when they were operating at their pomp.

"You look back years ago and you're referencing Leams and Irish teams who wouldn't have expected to beat the All Blacks years ago," says O'Brien.

Steve Hansen's men were marketed as the best ever until Ireland broke with the chains of history last November.

"We're in the post-Chicago era of Irish rugby now," said O'Brien.

Never one to take a backward step, O'Brien has always been at his best when thrown in against the best.

The way the 'Tullow Tank' overshadowed Richie McCaw in November 2013 was a major factor in Ireland taking New Zealand right to the wire without closing the deal.

Of course, it was hooker Dane Coles and centre Ryan Crotty who combined to break Irish hearts that day in the Aviva Stadium.

It looks like Coles will not make it back from his concussion issues for the first Test next Saturday.

Crotty is expected to be fit to play. But, he will come under serious pressure from Sonny Bill Williams for the No 12 shirt.

O'Brien is not inclined to worry too much about what New Zealand will bring to the table.

The improved player quality from combining four nations into one collective leaves O'Brien convinced he can be on the winning side of the three-Test series.

"I'd be lying if I said that we shouldn't be expecting to beat the All Blacks with the calibre of player we have and the depth of squad we have," he continued.

"I don't see an aura in terms of them being unbeatable, they're a group of guys exactly like us who play rugby, anything can happen on the day."

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