Not since Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville got together on their first Monday Night Football, has there been a meeting of the minds like this!
We got Irish rugby legend Ronan O’Gara and All-Blacks icon Dan Carter to sat down with Paddy Power to discuss the British and Irish Lions hopes ahead of the first test with New Zealand.
Just like one of their arrowing kicks into the corner, they got straight to the point.
Our traders might be predicting that New Zealand will turn their opponents into kittens, pricing the Lions at 7/2 for an opening victory, but Carter and O’Gara believe the entire three-test series could rest on Saturday morning’s first game.
O’Gara even went as far as saying “it’s going to be a long series” for the Lions should they lose match one.
Losses to Super Rugby franchises the Blues and the Highlanders left Warren Gatland’s Lions with an early thorn in the paw to deal with, but they’ve since roared back with impressive victories over the New Zealand Maori and the Chiefs.
With first test on the horizon O’Gara – who’s got two test caps for the Lions to his name – feels now is the time for them to pounce.
“The opportunity now for the Lions is enormous, absolutely huge for what they could possibly do,” said O’Gara.
“It will be extremely difficult, you’ve got to take into account who they are playing – the best rugby nation in the world. The key game will be the first test, if they don’t win it’s going to be a long series for them.”
Being one of the greatest out halves of all time, the highest points scorer in test history and a handsome devil to boot; when Dan Carter opens his mouth on oval ball matters the rugby world tends to shut up and listen.
The former All-Black number 10 believes the Lions can challenge their illustrious opposition in certain aspects of game, but they won’t measure up to the world champions in the one place that matters most – on the scoreboard.
“We’re going to see a different Lions team than what we’ve seen to date,” Carter said.
“They’re going to be extremely competitive with the All-Blacks in a lot of areas, but I’d be ridiculed by all the Kiwi public if I didn’t say anything other than a 3-0 series win for New Zealand.”
Our traders agree wholeheartedly with Carter, making the 3-0 whitewash the most likely outcome of the series at odds of just 8/13.
If Theresa May was number one in the criticism stakes last week, then Gatland was a close second after the head coach’s decision to call in four Welsh and two Scottish players, whose countries happened to be touring in close proximity to the Lions base in New Zealand.
More established names like England’s Joe Launchbury and Ireland duo Simon Zebo and Keith Earls were overlooked, leading some commentators to question the entire Lions concept itself. Carter rejects that notion, pointing to what the tour means to the nations it touches only once in every dozen years.
“The Lions make such an impact on our country, especially the town and regions they go to visit,” said the All-Black legend.
“It’s so unique, so special and it only happens once every 12 years for our country. Just talking to some of my family and friends in Christchurch, we missed out on the 2011 World Cup games that were supposed to be there after the earthquake and they’ve had a lot of setbacks – but leading into that Crusaders game the city was buzzing.”
“You see what it meant to them to the Blues and the Highlanders players. It’s once in-a-lifetime opportunity and we absolutely love these series.”
As he did so often on the pitch for Munster and Ireland it only seemed fair for O’Gara to take the final word on where the Lions stand ahead of Saturday and he didn’t need a second invitation to maul into it.
“It’s about trying to get combinations working together,” the Racing 92 coach proclaimed.
“From a Lions point of view, they still don’t know what their best midfield is. There’s an awful lot of indecision in their second and back rows as well.”
“In an ideal world they’d have three or four games to find their form together, that’s why it’s difficult. It will come down to the test games, that’s what touring is about!”
* Ronan O’Gara and Dan Carter were speaking last at the launch of the SoftCo Foundation at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club.