O'Driscoll warns Lions of 'ferocious', 'brutal' New Zealand tour
Brian O'Driscoll has warned the British and Irish Lions to expect a "ferocious" physical battle throughout their tour of New Zealand - and not just in the Tests.
The legendary former Ireland centre was Lions captain in the last tour to New Zealand in 2005, but his series was ended in the opening minute of the first Test after suffering a dislocated shoulder following a spear tackle from Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga.
This year's Lions face six tour matches before the opening Test against the All Blacks on June 24, and O'Driscoll knows from experience that those games will be far from gentle warm-up affairs.
"I think it is [the toughest tour]," he told the Telegraph. "I didn't get much love in the Test series. I'd imagine the [Tests] were pretty tough - the first 30 seconds was tough enough for me.
"But the other games were ferocious. Way more so than in South Africa and Australia. I just thought the intensity of the midweek games and the Saturday games before the Tests were really, really tough.
"The New Zealand Maori were the ones who beat us and that will be remembered for a long long time.
"I don't think the atmosphere is any more intimidating, I think it's just the intensity and pride they bring to their game. There is a real brutality to it.
"They are very, very big collision winners. The Polynesian element obviously plays a part. They are big ball carriers and defenders.
"Right across the game, even the provincial teams are stocked with skilful, powerful players. It just runs very deep. That means that the Lions don't really get any 'warm-up' games.
"So it's incredibly hard to get the right balance between knitting together and evolving a Test team, and trying to protect your players. It's a double-edged sword."