O'Driscoll slams Umaga after tackle ends tour

By Mark Geenty


Emotional Lions rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll is staggered at the lack of remorse shown by his All Blacks opposite Tana Umaga as his tour-ending injury soured relations between the teams.


O'Driscoll, right arm in a sling after dislocating his shoulder in his side's 3-21 in the first test here last night, alleged Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu dangerously spear tackled him 77 seconds into the match at Jade Stadium.


Umaga and Mealamu were both cleared today by South African match citing officer Wilhelm Venter, a decision labelled "amazing" by Lions coach Clive Woodward.


Wales wing Gareth Thomas was today named to take over as captain, ahead of last night's stand-in Martin Corry.


O'Driscoll did not hold back on his feelings at a press conference today.


"Obviously I'm absolutely gutted that my tour is over. I did dislocate my shoulder and there is a huge element of frustration and anger at the way it happened," he said.


"I have no doubt whatsoever that it was some sort of spear tackle that ended it."


O'Driscoll was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital where it took 25 minutes and a dose of morphine to put the shoulder back in.


Even more painful for the Irishman was the lack of response from the All Blacks.


O'Driscoll said halfback Justin Marshall was the only player to show interest in his condition immediately afterwards, and he had heard nothing from Umaga or Mealamu as of this morning.


"My real disappointment was that he (Umaga) didn't come up as I was being stretchered off which I thought would just be a common courtesy between captains, whether he had been involved or not.


"I don't know whether that shows any element of guilt or not. At the time and post-match when I thought about it, that certainly disappointed me."


Umaga was lauded for his fair play two years ago when he placed a stricken Colin Charvis in the recovery position after a heavy Jerry Collins tackle during a test against Wales in Hamilton.


Woodward said last night's incident had angered his players and soured relations between the teams ahead of the second test in Wellington on Saturday.


"After every game on tour there's been a great atmosphere, players coming in and out of changing rooms and swapping shirts. It didn't seem quite the same on Saturday night," Woodward said.


O'Driscoll's memory of the incident was clear.


At a ruck, O'Driscoll tried to drive towards Collins, then two players -- later identified by Woodward from video footage as Umaga and Mealamu -- picked up a leg each and spun him around in the air.


"It wasn't just a case of dropping me, I felt there was force in it," said O'Driscoll, who considered himself lucky to not land on his head and suffer more serious injury.


"There were times after the game when I found it hard to keep the tears back. I was feeling a lot of emotions and even now it's difficult to talk about it.


"I think it'll sink in in the next few days when I realise that I got to captain the Lions in a test match for just over a minute.


"I suppose I should be thankful that it was a minute and not no time at all but it certainly is disappointing for me and my family that came over yesterday."


O'Driscoll's parents and sisters were present at the ground.


Woodward said he and Lions legal adviser Richard Smith QC brought the incident to Venter's attention after viewing the tapes from British and New Zealand television last night.


"He (Venter) said the tapes are inconclusive. I'm a professional coach and I think the tapes are conclusive because I saw them," Woodward said.


The incident wasn't seen by French referee Joel Jutge or touch judge Andrew Cole, of Australia, who was close to the action, and television replays at the time were inconclusive.


"I'm very disappointed they're not even going to bring the players in and talk about it," Woodward said.


"They can still be acquitted after a hearing, but just to say nothing has happened is just an amazing decision to make within 12 hours."


Woodward said the 12-hour limit for citing a player was too short and needed to be looked at by the International Rugby Board because it placed officials under too much time pressure after a night game.


O'Driscoll ruled out any legal action, while Woodward said the matter was now closed.


O'Driscoll was to have a scan on the shoulder and was unsure whether he would remain for the rest of the tour.


- NZPA

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