WELLINGTON: Former New Zealand coach Graham Henry has weighed in on the ongoing debate over the crippling tackle on Brian O’Driscoll in the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour, saying it “helped galvanise” the All Blacks.
The dangerous dumping in the opening minute of the first Test dislocated O’Driscoll’s shoulder ruling the Lions skipper out of the remainder of the series which the All Blacks went on to sweep 3-0.
The incident has been vociferously debated ever since with an angry O’Driscoll, unable to take any further part in the series, describing it as “deliberate foul play, dangerous, a cheap shot.”
With the Lions due to return to New Zealand next month, the tackle – in which All Blacks captain Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu combined to take O’Driscoll out of play – is again being raked over.
Mealamu this week expressed his regret but stopped short of apologising when he said he “thought it was a typical rugby movement till I realised Tana was on the side and we had tipped him up.”
Henry told Fairfax Media on Saturday the tip tackle was “totally accidental, one of those things” that happen in a game.
“Everybody was sad about (what happened) but those things are outside of your control. You’ve just got to move on and concentrate on the next game.
“The guys had respect for Brian and they didn’t want that to happen. I think they handled it pretty well.”
Henry, the only man to have coached both the Lions (2001 in Australia) and New Zealand (2004-11), was in his second year at the helm of the All Blacks and was still moulding a side rebuilding after being knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup.
As the tackle on O’Driscoll became a focal point of the 2005 tour, Henry said that it possibly worked to the All Blacks advantage as they concentrated on the games ahead.
“Certainly there was a huge amount of interest in the O’Driscoll injury and what happened around that,” he said.
“We had to help the guys who were involved in that, move on and concentrate on playing good football in the second Test. Maybe that was part of our motivation.
“There was so much negative business going on from the British media it probably galvanised us ... or helped us to galvanise anyway.”--AFP