Wilko will add bite to Lions, says O’Driscoll

LIONS captain Brian O’Driscoll yesterday hailed the addition of Jonny Wilkinson to the touring party as a “big boost” to his side’s chances of glory in New Zealand.

Wilkinson was included as the 45th member of the Lions squad after proving he had fully recovered from the knee ligament damage.

Lions head coach Clive Woodward had omitted Wilkinson from the original squad but left the selection door open subject to the England fly-half proving his fitness.

Woodward added Wilkinson to the touring party after he emerged unscathed from his third game back.

And O’Driscoll, who played alongside Wilkinson in all three Tests of the 2001 Lions tour in Australia, was thrilled with the news.

“It is fantastic, it’s great to have him there. Everyone knows about Jonny’s capabilities, what he brings to a side and it is great to have him back in form and playing well,” he said.

“It is a big boost to the side. Mentally, he is a tough player, his skill level is as high as you can get and he is the complete number 10. He controls things well, he is full of confidence and that is what you need.”

Elsewhere, Dean Richards was confirmed as Harlequins’ new director of rugby and immediately vowed to “wake the sleeping giant”. Quins were relegated to division one for the first time in their history just over a week ago and the club’s officials have since been “burning the midnight oil” to thrash out a new business plan.

Richards, who signed a three-year deal the day relegation was confirmed, readily accepted the daunting task of winning immediate promotion back into the Premiership and transforming Harlequins into a major force in the European game.

“Having played against Quins for 15 to 20 years and having been director of rugby against them, I always felt they were sleeping giants waiting to be woken up,” Richards said.

“There is huge potential here and I am here to realise that potential. I am looking to do something here at Quins. Without a doubt I think people will expect success. My first objective is to get into the Premiership but it’s going to be a hard year.”

Richards returns to English rugby after a season spent coaching French side Grenoble.

On the player front, Andre Vos, the club captain, England international centre Will Greenwood and number eight Tony Diprose will all remain at The Stoop and several new signings are set to be announced over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, All Blacks star Carlos Spencer has revealed his excitement after signing a three-year contract with Zurich Premiership club Northampton.

The fly-half playmaker, whose move from New Zealand was one of the sport’s recent worst-kept secrets, will fill a Saints vacancy created by Shane Drahm’s departure to Worcester and Paul Grayson’s move into coaching.

Spencer, 29, joins Northampton from Auckland on the back of a Test career in which he won 35 caps and scored 291 points.

More in this section

Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Home Delivery


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox