Former Australian rugby coach Eddie Jones has branded Munster legend Paul O’Connell “a fading star” with nothing more than one Test match performance left in his 33-year-old legs.
Jones, who led his native Australia to the epic 2003 World Cup final in Sydney, believes former Lions skipper O’Connell will be the British & Irish Lions’ weakest link on the forthcoming three-Test tour of Australia.
“Lock is a position where I feel the Lions are a little lacking,” Jones explained.
“The great Paul O’Connell is fading. He may have one great Test in him, but three on successive weekends will be difficult.”
Jones is more impressed with the Lions back row. Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien was a standout in Ireland’s shock 2011 World Cup victory against Australia and Jones insists the 26-year-old will have to put in a repeat performance if the Lions are to stand any chance of winning a series on Australian soil for the first time since Ian McGeechan’s team in 1989.
“The Welsh pair of captain Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau are standouts in the Lions back row,” Jones said.
“Warburton is hard on the ball and Faletau possesses a nice step not dissimilar to the great Toutai Kefu, who helped Australia to win the World Cup in 1999.
“Sean O’Brien, the Irish flanker, was massive against the Wallabies in the upset at the 2011 World Cup so I see this trio ensuring the breakdown contest is relentless.”
Jones, an admirer of Lions and Wales coach Warren Gatland, stopped short of picking a series winner but insists the three Test matches will be very close.
“The Wallabies can see the red train coming but handling it is now the challenge,” he said.
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