Controversy surrounding Brian O'Driscoll tackle 'may never end'

Tana Umaga fears the furore around the tackle that put Brian O'Driscoll out of the 2005 British and Irish Lions series may never end.

The former All Blacks captain will lead the Blues into Wednesday's Eden Park clash against the Lions, having moved from hard-hitting centre to head coach in the 12 years since the tourists' last New Zealand visit.

Umaga and Keven Mealamu's tip-tackle a minute into the first All Blacks Test against the Lions in 2005 left the tourists' captain with a shoulder injury which ended his tour.

Mealamu recently admitted he still "feels a stink" about that tackle - but both men have always insisted the incident was a total mistake.

The Lions reacted furiously to O'Driscoll's injury at the time, with accusations and recriminations flying around. However, Umaga has now called for the whole scenario to be put to bed.

"That was 12 years ago, if people can't put it behind them I suppose they never will," said Umaga, ahead of the Blues hosting the Lions in Auckland on Wednesday.

"It's not about that time now. It's about this group now and against the Lions and hopefully the memories they make that are positive ones - and we just move on from that."

The 44-year-old has told his Blues squad to embrace the rare privilege of facing a Lions side that only tours New Zealand every 12 years.

"It's a great opportunity and for our guys to be involved in something pretty special," said Umaga.

"Not all players who play this game get to face the British and Irish Lions.

"Being such a high profile game, our players will play in front of their biggest crowd ever at home.

"Everyone wants to know who you are, the scrutiny afterwards, if you play well you get remembered, and if you don't play well that's remembered too.

"There are things going on before games that have never happened before.

"But the furore that comes with the Lions, it's great - but then it's how do we handle that?

"We've talked about those things, it's about guys reacting and putting that all into practice."

All Blacks superstar Sonny Billy Williams has been cleared to start for the Blues after a knee injury, with Umaga naming a strong side for the hotly-anticipated encounter.

The All Blacks won the 2005 series 3-0, in one of the Lions' worst tours in recent memory.

Warren Gatland's 2017 outfit laboured to a 13-7 tour-opening victory over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday and are already under pressure to hit form.

"We've talked about that, the media has got on the back of the Lions," said Umaga.

"But that's what happens, especially with a juggernaut like that.

"There's big expectation for them but we've got big expectation on ourselves too.

"They will want a more polished performance but we just have to keep the pressure on them.

"We've talked about the intensity and the backlash that's likely to come as they aren't happy with their performance so far.

"But we've just got to concentrate on ourselves. We've got to be ready to match it, if not better it."

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