Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

O'Connell's Legendary Ambition; Skipper Says His Side Are Ready to Emulate the 1974 Lions and Come Home from the Tour Unbeaten. Chris Jones Reports from South Africa

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

O'Connell's Legendary Ambition; Skipper Says His Side Are Ready to Emulate the 1974 Lions and Come Home from the Tour Unbeaten. Chris Jones Reports from South Africa

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

LIONS captain Paul O'Connell today warned his South African hosts that his team are ready to match the unbeaten 1974 squad and become rugby legends.

O'Connell was reacting to comments from Springbok coach Pieter De Villiers, who claimed the 1974 side were unique and that the present tourists had no chance of matching their historic feats in his country.

Despite insisting he was unaware of the Springbok coach's dismissive attitude towards his men, O'Connell mounted a fearsome defence, one that has started the inevitable war of words earlier than predicted.

O'Connell, who was today named to lead the Lions in their opening tour match against a Royal XV at Rustenberg on Saturday, said: "That 1974 tour made those players legends and we are here to do the same. Winning a Test series in South Africa is what legends are made of and that's our goal.

"It would be the pinnacle of anyone's career and a massive achievement for all of us."

The Lions have named a powerful pack to lay down an early marker on this 10-match tour and the opposition, made up of players from below Super 14 level, will be delighted to test the touring team's resolve. That is why O'Connell has been paired with England's Simon Shaw -- the only survivor of the 1997 series-winning squad. They pack down behind a front row featur-inhuge props Andrew Sheridan and Adam Jones, either side of the pugnacious Matthew Rees.

England's Joe Worsley makes his debut for the Lions at No6 and has been tasked with producing another big defensive display to allow fellow backrow forwards Andy Powell and Martyn Williams to cause havoc.

Powell summed up the mood in the camp. He said: "There is no me in this squad, just we. It's the best group of guys I have ever been involved with."

Keith Earls, the 21-year-old Munster centre, whose job in the last two days has been to look after the cuddly tour mascot, a lion, is given an early opportunity to prove why the Irish rate him so highly. …

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