If we’d run a poll earlier in the week on who should have been captain for the final Lions test, it would have probably looked something like this:
However, it seems Warren Gatland may have had a few too many schooners on tour …
Given the time difference, the UK arose on Wednesday morning to the bombshell that the one they call BOD had been dropped from the Test match squad altogether.
Debate earlier in the week was around who should play alongside him, rather than who should replace him, and the reaction was fairly unanimous: #justiceforBOD trended on Twitter, the inevitable Downfall Hitler parody emerged, former Irish and Lions hooker Keith Wood called it a “terrible mistake” on BBC Radio 5 Live and Willie John Mcbride, captain of the famous 1974 tour to South Africa, reckoned that “Robbie Deans, the Australian coach, must be laughing.” Even Dan Carter had his say:
After all, he’s the most internationally capped centre in the world, a veteran on his fourth Lions tour and arguably the finest player in the northern hemisphere in the professional era. Surely he has a BOD-given (awful pun, I’m sorry!) right to be selected? Indeed, “it was the first time anyone has made that decision with him in 15 years of rugby,” admitted Gatland. 15 years!
The hardest part of Gatland’s decision to comprehend is the fact that both tour captain Sam Warburton and 2009 captain Paul O’Connell are also out. When you have a group of players who have played together for such a relatively short amount of time, you need someone with that sort of considerable presence in the changing room and dedication on the field. The sort of dedication that involves making the most tackles of any tourist (23) and missing none … whatsoever. Zero.
O’Driscoll would have filled this void of leadership experience. Instead, Alun Wyn Jones comes in as the fourth captain on the current tour, admitting he’s probably been selected for the way he plays rather than the way he leads. While he has captained the Ospreys for some time, he has only captained once on the international scene.
But the squad isn’t completely devoid of international experience. Wyn Jones does have 70caps to his name while Jamie Roberts (53 caps for Wales) is the one to benefit from BOD’s omission. He’ll be reunited with Wales centre partner Jonathan Davies, who moves to his natural position at outside centre, and they hold the Welsh record for the most caps played as a pair. Their knowledge of each other’s game could be hugely important against the fledgling partnership of Christian Laeli’ifano and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
And let’s not forget how much Johnny Sexton can influence a game. Remember his heroics in the 2011 Heineken Cup Final?
Elsewhere Gatland has brought in the heavies. The selection of Roberts, Richard Hibbard for Tom Youngs, Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau to bolster the back row, Mike Phillips for Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi on the bench have been made with one intention and one intention only. To bulldoze the Australians. To outmuscle them in the contact area and create forward momentum. Faletau’s work rate is second to none and he’s the master of making short yardage close to the breakdown. O’Brien is, well, a monster.
And so we wait with baited breath. Ultimately only one thing will decide whether Gatland has made the canniest selection of his rugby career … or the worst mistake: the outcome.
If the Lions win, it will have been a cunning ploy of historic proportions. If not, Gatland will never be able to step foot in Ireland again!
What do you think of O’Driscoll watching from the stands? Post your comments below.