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'Lions team was immense in '05': The bizarre regularity that Lions fans still bring up the Umaga tackle over 15 years later

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

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As the Lions tour approaches, memories and documentaries of old tours are surfacing to build-up to the special occasion when the Springboks will host the best of the home nations this July.


The nostalgia is sparking discussions around the notorious 2005 Lions tour, many felt the side ‘underperformed’ under Sir Clive Woodward who fell 3-0 at the hands of a rampant New Zealand side featuring the emergence of Dan Carter as the world’s best player.

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The most infamous moment of the tour arguably came in the first minute of the first test, when a dangerous clean out by Keven Mealamu and Tana Umaga became a spear tackle on star Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll.

“I was getting lifted, by both legs as it turned out by Mealamu and Tana, both lifted me up a leg a piece and then I got dropped down on my shoulder,” the Lions centre said later in the Lions Den documentary.

“I knew pretty much instantly it was pretty serious.”


The tackle put the Lions captain out of action for the entire series and has been talked about ever since, with some believing that O’Driscoll’s injury was so critical it changed the trajectory of the series for what was an ‘immense’ Lions side.

One fan wrote ‘tour could have been much different’ if Umaga had been sanctioned with a red card. Under today’s rules, a double red card for the All Blacks pair would have been likely.

Another believed a ‘fit BOD would’ve definitely levelled things up’ for the Lions against the All Blacks throughout the series as he was arguably the ‘best player in the world’ at that point.


After winning the first test 21-3 in Christchurch, the All Blacks emphatically sealed the series in Wellington 48-18 on the back of a 33-point individual haul to Dan Carter. The final test ended with another blowout win to New Zealand, 38-19.

O’Driscoll returned for his third Lions tour in 2009 on the tour of South Africa, and played an influential part in turning the second test into one of the most remembered of all-time.

The Irish centre was involved in multiple skirmishes with Springbok players and put his body on the line with sickening blows that required medical attention for both players, but the impetus shown by O’Driscoll fuelled the Lions to a near-victory if not for a Ronan O’Gara error in the dying stages.

Another fan wrote that although he was the best of his generation, he ‘was no angel’ on that South Africa tour, ‘out of control’ and ‘borderline thuggish’.


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