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O'Brien sticking by controversial 2017 Lions tour comments

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Former British & Irish Lions flanker Sean O’Brien is sticking by comments he made after returning from the Lions’ drawn 2017 series in New Zealand, insisting Gatland’s men should have come away with a 3 – 0 victory over the then World Champion All Blacks.


O’Brien’s comments were taken as an attack on Gatland’s coaching strategy and came despite many believing the Lions were lucky to come away with a drawn series in the most difficult of all countries to tour.

Speaking to Garry Doyle of, O’Brien is standing over his comments four years on. “I know it caused controversy at the time but my opinion hasn’t changed, we could have won that series 3-0.”

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“When you look at the players we had – there was so much world-class talent in the squad, enough to have won all the Tests. I know all about the history, how the Lions have only won seven Tests or something like that in New Zealand over the years.

“But look at what has happened to New Zealand since 2017. They’re still a brilliant team. But we (Ireland) beat them in 2018; South Africa beat them down there in 2018, Argentina had their win last year, England destroyed them in the (2019) World Cup.

“Think about it. The Lions not only had the best of England but also Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That’s where I was coming from; we had the players to do it. I didn’t intend to insult or undermine anyone by saying that. I certainly don’t want to do that this time because Warren’s a good coach, the right man to lead this tour. But do I still think we could have won 3-0? Yeah, I do.”

Last weekend Romain Poite revealed to RugbyPass that he got the crucial decision in the Third test, an accidental offside call, wrong. It was a decision that favoured the Lions and left many New Zealanders feeling like the series should have gone their way.


“Many people called me after the game and told me: ‘That was a mistake, but it was justice, the right decision to make’ (for the series to be drawn),” Poite told Jamie Lyall and RugbyPass.  “Even the World Rugby staff management gave me this call. But I said that I am paid to make a big decision at the end of the game. That was my concern.

“I can promise you when I went back to the changing room, I destroyed everything, because I was angry against me. That tour was a human story with Jerome Garces, Jaco Peyper and many people, as in 2013 with Craig Joubert and Chris Pollock [the referees who took charge of the other Tests]. I felt the refereeing in this tour, 2017, was great. And what will we remember? Just the last decision of the tour.”


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