Robinson backs 'phenomenal' Farrell to handle Lions pressure

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Jason Robinson says England's Owen Farrell would be the first name on his team sheet as the British and Irish Lions aim to avoid a repeat of their 2005 "disaster" in New Zealand.

Warren Gatland will lead the prestigious representative side to his homeland for a 10-match tour, including three daunting Tests against the world champion All Blacks, seeking to build on the 2-1 victory he orchestrated in Australia four years ago.

Taking time out from his usual role as Wales coach, Gatland would do well to study the history of the Lions' previous visit to New Zealand for an example of what not to do when up against the All Blacks.

A star-studded team under the guidance of England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward were mercilessly put to the sword, their demise embodied by the spear tackle, committed by Keven Mealamu and Ma'a Nonu in the first minute of the first Test, that ruled key man Brian O'Driscoll out for the rest of the series. 

Should he avoid a similar fate to the unfortunate Irishman, Saracens' in-form playmaker Farrell could carry the hopes of the touring party, according to Robinson. 

Asked which player is most capable of making the difference for the visitors, he said: "I would choose Owen Farrell.  

"I just think when it comes to playing out in New Zealand and being successful, I think it's all about handling the pressure. 

"For a young man, what he's done, not just with England, but with Sarries, I think he's been phenomenal. 

"He's consistently playing well, he's an excellent kicker. His attention to detail with what he does and his hunger for success. 

"He'd be the first name on my team sheet. You need to be calm, you can't be overawed by history, by names, by the fact it's the All Blacks. And he wouldn't be. 

"He'd be going about his job with a firm belief they can win."

Robinson earned his second Lions call-up for that fateful enterprise and the 42-year-old knows all too well the size of the task facing the current crop.  

"I was on the 2005 tour and it was a bit of a disaster," he said.

"You know from the Brian O'Driscoll incident in the first minute or two to losing all three Tests and losing heavily. Those players have got massive responsibility and a huge challenge ahead."

O'Driscoll, meanwhile, hopes that after waiting more than a decade for the Lions to tour New Zealand again, a new chapter can be written that will exorcise the demons of that notorious incident, which led to the outlawing of the technique used by the Kiwi enforcers. 

"It's the situation in my rugby career I can't get away from," he said.

"The reality is, it happened. Do I wish it could be undone? I do. Did the laws change in the game for ever more after that? They did. Was I the guinea pig? I suppose you could say that. 

"I want this tour to pass by so it can be buried and we can kind of move on from it. I suppose the cycle of 12 years will allow that to happen."