“One of my best Lions memories” – Justin Tipuric at a special team conference

“Still, to this day, it’s one of my fondest Lions memories.”

It’s been almost nine years since the British and Irish Lions headed Down Under to find their way back to winning ways. Justin Tipuric will never forget Paul O’Connell’s words at the start of this journey.

In 2013, Tipuric was selected for his very first Lions tour. Given that Wales had won the Six Nations and Warren Gatland was the Lions head coach, it was no surprise that this nation had the best representation. [15 players] in the squad.

Ireland had nine players in the original squad, but two of them, in 2013, were living legends in what would prove to be their final tours – O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll.

Tipuric, who was speaking with us this week as he helped promote the Guinness ‘Never Settle’ campaign for inclusion and diversity, sat down and happily recalled how O’Connell delivered the greatest speech ever. team of his playing career.

Justin Tipuric on this Paul O’Connell team conference

Considering he played under the inspirational Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones, as captains, it’s interesting to hear Paul O’Connell mentioned when we ask Justin Tipuric to remember the greatest conversation of team he’s ever been a part of.

Both of these Welsh forwards were part of the Lions squad in 2013, with Warburton named captain. O’Connell had been captain in 2009 but was happy to row behind the much younger Warburton.

For those who think the former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain was all about ‘fear of God’ speeches and fire and brimstone incitements, this dispels that myth. Typical comments:

“On my way to a Lions tour, and this is my first, you would always have heard of Paul O’Connell. What stands out is the first time he’s spoken.

“We trained in the Vale [in Wales], this short camp before our departure. And of course you hear about him being this Irish legend and stuff. How many tours he had done.

“But he just got us together and explained something at the end of that session. And I just remember every word he said. How clear he was and how he spoke and presented himself.

“Still, to this day, that’s one of my best Lions memories – how he spoke. And it wasn’t like that passionate, he was just explaining a bit of rugby focus, really. I remember having think, ‘This is how I’m supposed to talk when I talk in a caucus’.”

Tipuric says he was impressed, at the time and for several weeks afterwards. Every time he spoke to a friend of the Lions, he mentioned O’Connell talking.

O’Connell broke his arm in the final 15 minutes of the first Test against hosts Australia, and Wallabies captain James Horwill was amazed – after hearing the snap on the pitch – that the lock Irish played.

This broken arm ruled O’Connell out of the rest of the tour but, such was his positive influence on the team, Gatland asked him to stay in Australia with them. At the end of the Test Series, which the Lions won 2-1, many players asked O’Connell to hand him the trophy to lift.

Justin Tipuric

Justin Tipuric spoke on behalf of Guinness, alongside teammates George North and Dan Lydiate. Guinness works with its partners to ensure that rugby is inclusive and welcoming to all. To find out more, visit www.guinness.com/neversettle

Charles P. Patton