Sean O'Brien and Sam Warburton backed to lead Lions to life-changing series win

The assistant coach hailed O'Brien's availability as a huge boost for Saturday's Test.

Sean O'Brien and Sam Warburton backed to lead Lions to life-changing series win

Neil Jenkins has backed Sean O'Brien and Sam Warburton to lead the British and Irish Lions to a life-changing series win.

The assistant coach hailed O'Brien's availability as a huge boost for Saturday's Test series decider with the All Blacks, after a citing against the Ireland flanker was dismissed.

O'Brien was called to a disciplinary hearing for allegedly striking Waisake Naholo in the Lions' 24-21 win over New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday, that squared the Test series at one-all.

The bullish Leinster star caused New Zealand untold problems in Wellington, and Jenkins expects his back-row partnership with skipper Sam Warburton to scale even further heights in the final Test in Auckland.

Jenkins - who helped the Lions to a series win in South Africa in 1997 - admitted it could take the 2017 squad years to appreciate the enormity if they registered the tourists' second-ever series win in New Zealand.

"Sean O'Brien's performances on this tour speak volumes," said Jenkins.

"He's been outstanding on this trip. He's a world-class rugby player, and he and Sam Warburton were outstanding last week.

"They both played exceptionally well. It's only right that he's available for Saturday, and it's good news for us that he is as well.

"Sometimes you don't really appreciate what you've actually achieved in rugby until you finish playing.

"So you can only really think about that properly after Saturday night, and maybe even years down the road if you like.

"You hear it from Ian McGeechan and other famous Lions: sometimes it might only be a look that passes between former Lions team-mates.

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton

"And to be honest that's what it tends to be; just a look across the street with someone.

"You make friendships and bonds for life, and that will never change.

"Whatever happens on Saturday this has been a fantastic tour and the boys have done exceptionally well.

"They've gone hard from day one, they've gone extremely well, there's a fantastic spirit among them all - and that will play a big part on Saturday night.

"There's a true camaraderie and togetherness in the squad, and that will shine through again on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Liam Williams has been backed to shake off a leg problem in time for Saturday's Test decider with New Zealand.

Liam Williams
Liam Williams

Williams sat out training in Queenstown on Wednesday, with "tightness" in his leg - but assistant coach Jenkins insisted the Wales full-back will be fit to contest selection.

The Lions will chase only their second-ever Test series win in New Zealand on Saturday, but must end the All Blacks' 39-match unbeaten run at Eden Park.

Williams should start again at full-back provided he shakes off his minor complaint, but the Lions have Leigh Halfpenny and Jack Nowell both waiting to slot into the starting XV if required.

"He's just a little bit tight, but he'll be fine," said Jenkins.

"It's probably precautionary, just a little bit of tightness."

More in this section


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

Sign up

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