O’Driscoll debate continues to rage

Ronan O’Gara describes decision to drop Ireland star as horrific and admits O’Driscoll was choked afterwards

Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara share a laugh on Ireland duty in 2011. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara share a laugh on Ireland duty in 2011. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 13:43

Less than 24 hours before kick-off in the decisive third test against Australia, Warren Gatland’s decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll from the British & Irish Lions continues to set the agenda and overshadow the match itself.

Following overnight rumours on Twitter rumours that replacement centre Manu Tuilagi had suffered an injury and O’Driscoll could have been promoted to the bench, assistant coach Graham Rowntree was forced to answer more questions about the Irish centre at this morning’s pre-match press conference.

“News to me” was Rowntree’s reaction to that non-story, but there remains plenty of commentary in the newspapers on the O’Driscoll non-selection issue.

Writing in the Irish Examiner, the former Ireland outhalf Ronan O’Gara revealed he had spoken to his ex-teammate after news of his omission broke and described the decision as “the greatest kick in the bollix he could ever get”.

“I rang Brian on Wednesday. He was choked,” O’Gara explained. “We’d be close . . . It’s the greatest kick in the b****x he could ever get. Horrific. He has to live with that now. Threw will be a captain’s meeting today and he was probably preparing a speech for that from Monday. And then he gets the tap on the shoulder from Warren.

“At least in my case (being dropped by Declan Kidney), I knew Deccie wasn’t ringing me to tell me I’d been made Irish captain! But for him, it was a live possibility . . . And then, it’s whipped from under him.”

Elsewhere, the former Lions coach Ian McGeechan said he would have picked O’Driscoll, for his leadership skills if nothing else.

“I would have kept him, simply because of the leadership and responsibility that he takes,” McGeechan told BBC Sport.”He understands playing under pressure, and captaincy under pressure.”

“I would have liked to have seen him playing with Jamie Roberts because they were such a good partnership in 2009. They do understand each other, they have a very good chemistry, and with 80 minutes to win a test series that combination could have given us some special moments.”

Gatland’s decision did receive some support, with the former Welsh centre Scott Gibbs rowing in behind the Lions coach.

“It’s disappointing for Brian, his last outing as a Lion was disappointing in that second Test but no room for sentiment,” Gibbs said. “They are positive reinforcements by Gatland, lots of firepower and more horse power brought to this side and it’s the last swing of the bat isn’t it?”

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