Lions squad presented with Test jerseys by Brian O’Driscoll

Lions squad presented with Test jerseys by Brian O’Driscoll

The Lions' Irish contingent got a reminder of times past against the All Blacks when former captain Brian O'Driscoll presented them with their Test jerseys for Saturday's series opener at Eden Park.

The British & Irish Lions face world champions New Zealand in the first Test as the long-awaited three-game series finally gets underway, 12 years on from the All Blacks' 3-0 clean sweep of O'Driscoll's 2005 tourists.

Test captain Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Sean O'Brien, Tadgh Furlong and replacements Johnny Sexton and Jack McGrath along with the rest of the matchday 23 received their famous red jerseys from O'Driscoll at the team hotel in Auckland on Friday evening local time.

The Irish legend's presence will have underscored scrum-half Murray's feeling that he will go into the biggest game of his career having learned the hard way how to beat the All Blacks.

O'Driscoll never beat New Zealand in an otherwise storied career, retiring before his country's historic win against them last November. That win will equip scrum-half Murray with the knowledge of how the Irish came out on top in that epic 40-29 win at Soldier Field in Chicago last November.

The 28-year-old Munster star also knows that the historic first win for Ireland came on the back of a chastening 24-22 defeat to Steve Hansen's side three years earlier, when the men in green blew a 19-0 lead and lost with the last kick of the game to the never-say-die All Blacks.

“A lot happened in Chicago,” Murray said. “One of the main things for me is that you've got to be confident and willing to play rugby against the All Blacks.

“I've learned in the past, in 2013 in Dublin, we got quite a good lead and then we probably panicked a bit and tried to maintain that lead and hold out.

“Whereas looking back on the Chicago game, you've got to keep playing, you've got to keep attacking and stay in the game - not go into your shell.

“That's easier said than done and again that's the challenge, to maintain that for 80 minutes.

“Decision-making, execution of gameplan, all those things come into it too but for me the main thing to do is keep playing.”

Lions squad presented with Test jerseys by Brian O’Driscoll

The Chicago win, which ended the All Blacks' 18-Test winning streak, will be an asset to the Lions going into the first Test in terms of mental strength, Murray said.

“It's something you definitely take confidence from, it's not the be all and end all, it was a long time ago,” he said.

“But to show that it can be done is certainly something we can be proud of. We have looked at that game and certain things we did we will try and implement as well, but again it is a new group of players, it’s a completely different task but to know that it can be done is definitely something we are going to build off.”

Another source of strength, Murray believes, is the Test captaincy of his long-time Munster team-mate Peter O'Mahony.

“I’ve known Pete for years and years, and it’s really refreshing to see that it hasn’t changed him at all. He hasn’t tried to be a different person since he’s been named captain. He’s just gone about rugby the way he usually does.

“He’s a guy who, when he speaks, people listen to him.

“His messages are thought out and they’re clear. They have meaning behind them. He doesn’t talk all the time. He talks when it’s needed, and people respond to that.

“Then playing-wise, you’ve seen it for years. He’s a hard player, he will try his best to lead by what he does on the pitch and people are going to follow him.”

“I’m delighted for him. I’m delighted for him and his family. It’s a massive thing for him, and I think he’s itching to get out there now and play for the Lions in a Test game.”

Murray has been captained by O'Mahony throughout his Munster career, from under-age teams to the senior side and the Corkman's leadership skills have come as no surprise to the scrum-half.

“It was always in him, he was always a leader, he was always someone who if something wasn’t done right he’d want to put it right and he wouldn’t be happy until it was just knowing him as a person, when we all came into Munster with the like of Paul O’Connell, O’Gara, all these guys, we have grown with them and probably taken a lot of experience off them, and learned an awful lot.

“For me, from a young age at under-age sides where Pete captained me, he has been the same.

“Obviously, he has learned as time as gone on, as different experiences have come his way, he has developed his leadership skills because it has taken him to a whole new level now and the really pleasing thing from my point of view is that it hasn’t changed him and he hasn’t changed this week, he doesn’t seem more stressed, he has taken it in his stride, it has always been a dream of his to captain the Lions and you know the lads really respect him.

“He speaks and you can see lads listening and that is massive.”

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