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Rugby Union: O'Driscoll warns Lions of 'wild', 'brutal' New Zealand tour

Brian O'Driscoll has warned the British and Irish Lions that they can expect a “savage” physical battle throughout their tour of New Zealand – and not just in the Tests.

The legendary former Ireland centre captained the Lions on their last tour to New Zealand in 2005, but his streak ended in the first minute of the first Test after he dislocated a shoulder following a spear tackle by Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga.

The Lions have six tour games left this year before the opening Test match against the All Blacks on June 24, and O'Driscoll knows from experience that these games will be anything but easy warm-up games.

“I think it is [the toughest tour]he told the Telegraph. “I didn't get much love in the Test series. I would imagine that the [Tests] were pretty tough – the first 30 seconds were tough enough for me.

“But the other games were tough. Much tougher than South Africa and Australia. I just found the intensity of the midweek games and the Saturday games before the Tests really, really tough.

“The New Zealand Maori were the ones who beat us and we will remember that for a long time.”

“I don't think the atmosphere is more intimidating. I think it's just the intensity and the pride they bring to their game. It's real brutality.”

“They're very, very big collision winners. The Polynesian element obviously plays a role. They're great ball carriers and defenders.

“Throughout the game, even the provincial teams are equipped with talented, powerful players. The team is simply very strong. This means that the Lions don't really get any 'warm-up games'.

“That's why it's incredibly difficult to find the right balance between building and developing a Test team and trying to protect the players. It's a double-edged sword.”