O’Driscoll meets Umaga years af­ter spear tackle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

TOULON, France: It has taken 1 518 days, 50 and a half months and just 24 hours short of 217 weeks. But it has fi­nally hap­pened. Brian O’Driscoll has met Tana Umaga for the first time since the New Zealan­der’s fate­ful tackle that ended the Ir­ish­man’s Test se­ries as cap­tain of the 2005 Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions, af­ter just 60 sec­onds of the first Test.

The meet­ing did not take place in a rugby ci­tadel such as Eden Park, Auck­land, the ANZ sta­dium Syd­ney or the Mil­len­nium sta­dium, Cardiff.

In­stead, it was on a train­ing ground at Nice rugby club where two greats of the game fi­nally came face to face once more.

While Le­in­ster were train­ing, a very fa­mil­iar face ap­peared on the touch­line.

For the first time since that night at Christchurch four years ago, O’Driscoll and Umaga shook hands. There was no drama, no histri­on­ics, no petu­lance; just the usual kind of light-hearted con­ver­sa­tion rugby men in­dulge in the world over when they get to­gether.

Umaga is the backs coach at French Top 14 club Toulon, but had gone to Nice to meet up with some friends. “I have friends over there and one of them at the rugby club just said, come down to the ground,” ex­plained the Kiwi.

“I had no idea Brian was go­ing to be there. “When we got down there, my friend said I’ve got some­one for you to meet. I was a bit re­luc­tant be­cause I saw the Le­in­ster boys there and didn't want to be a nui­sance, he said.

“But when I got there, Brian came up and we just started chat­ting. It was good to catch up; we lit­er­ally hadn’t seen each other since that first Test against the Lions in Christchurch. I en­joyed chat­ting with him and see­ing how he was.

“We joked about the sun and the heat be­side the Mediter­ranean when he said Ire­land was hav­ing its wettest sum­mer for about 40 years.”

Was it un­com­fort­able in any sense for the New Zealan­der be­ing there? Did he feel ill at ease be­cause of past mem­o­ries? Did they dis­cuss the joint spear ef­fort in which Umaga and Keven Mealamu were in­volved and which wrecked O’Driscoll’s shoul­der.

Umaga, who has mel­lowed and ma­tured hugely as a man since mov­ing with his fam­ily to a new life in France, smiled.

He said: “Not at all, not in any way. It wasn’t un­com­fort­able chat­ting with Brian at all. It was good to have a chat about how things are go­ing for both of us. We didn’t men­tion 2005 and the Lions tour; it is a long, long time ago.” So there wasn’t any apol­ogy on Umaga’s part? “There was no men­tion of that. We just chat­ted about rugby to­day and our lives,” he said.

“Th­ese things hap­pen in rugby and ob­vi­ously they af­fect you at the time. But it’s not the last thing that hap­pens in your ca­reer, you move on. I just en­joyed the chat with him.” – Belfast Tele­graph

BUD­DIES: In spite of the 2005 spear tackle in­ci­dent there are no hard feel­ings be­tween Brian O’Driscoll and Tana Umaga

Tele­vi­sion footage of the in­fa­mous spear tackle

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