O’Driscoll omission a terrible mistake - Wood
The former Ireland captain criticises Lions coach Warren Gatland for limited gameplan
Brian O’Driscoll (L) touches teammate Leigh Halfpenny, after he failed to kick a penalty at the end of the second test match in Melbourne. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters
And the two-times Lions tourist also accused Gatland of failing to respect the tradition of the combined home nations representative side.
O’Driscoll was widely seen as the favourite to captain the side in Saturday’s third Test in Sydney, with Paul O’Connell and Sam Warburton both injured.
But the 125-cap Ireland international was not even included in the 23-man matchday squad as Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies were paired at centre as two of the 10 Wales players in the starting line-up, with England’s Manu Tuilagi on the bench.
Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones will instead lead the side and Wood feels his former international colleague’s leadership will be missed.
“I’ve been uncomfortable throughout this tour whenever Warren Gatland has spoken about the captaincy,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He tries to depower it, he consistently says it isn’t about leadership and that isn’t the most important thing. Having been on two Lions tours myself under (former England skipper) Martin Johnson, I would have said the leadership of the captain was the most important thing.
“Brian O’Driscoll has been quiet in the two Tests but at every stage, he has been the clarion call once Paul O’Connell got injured. I just think Gatland has made a terrible mistake.”
The fit-again Roberts will be central to a physical approach at ANZ Stadium and Wood, who won 58 Ireland caps at hooker, is upset at the lack of a “spark” in the tourists’ game.
“It’s entirely built around power,” he said. A huge amount rests on Jamie Roberts’ shoulders and they were crying out for him in the last two weeks. I just think Brian’s subtlety off him would have worked.
“You can say (Gatland is) picking on form but he’s picked an unbelievably direct team with very little guile in it, specifically to play this game plan.
“You’re asking them to pulverise a team. The Lions are at the end of virtually 12 months of the season, all these guys are pretty tired and you’re looking for the absolute maximum for it to work for them.
“It can happen, I want it to happen, I’m just a little bit disappointed at the manner in which I think the tradition has been treated.
“The Lions is about getting the best quality out of the players of these islands, not having an intransigent game plan. We’re not seeing that spark that we’re used to seeing from the Lions because it’s a game plan doesn’t suit an awful lot of the players.
“It suits the Welsh players, that’s why there’s 10 of them playing. We’re not seeing the blend of four teams. That’s what the Lions is about, that’s what makes it so phenomenal.”
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL FACTFILE
1979: Born January 21 in Dublin.
1996: Makes Ireland schools debut.
1999: Wins three Ireland Under-21 caps.
April — Called up to Ireland squad against Italy but not used in the match.
June — Makes Test debut against Australia during summer tour.
August — Handed provincial debut for Leinster.
November — Scores first international try, against the United States in 1999 World Cup.
2000: Runs in a hat-trick against France in Paris.
2001: Named in British and Irish Lions squad for Australia. Played all three Tests in 2-1 series defeat.
2002: Given Ireland captaincy for first time.
2004: Made permanent Ireland skipper. Leads Ireland to first Triple Crown for 19 years.
2005: Named Lions captain for tour to New Zealand.
June 25 — Ruled out of the rest of the Lions tour after dislocating his left shoulder in the first 90 seconds of the first Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch after a spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu. The pair escaped sanction at the time but were later strongly condemned by the International Rugby Board.
2007: March 17 — Surpasses Keith Wood’s record of 36 Tests as Ireland captain as they beat Italy 51-24 in the final game of the RBS 6 Nations.
April — Named RBS 6 Nations player of the tournament for a second consecutive year, following Ireland’s defence of the Triple Crown.
August 12 — Picked in 30-man squad for the World Cup, in which Ireland finished third in Pool D.
August 16 — Punched in the face during Ireland’s match with French club Bayonne and taken to hospital with a suspected fractured cheekbone.
2008: Captains Leinster to the Celtic League title.
2009: March 21 — Leads Ireland to the Six Nations Grand Slam as they beat Wales 17-15. O’ Driscoll scored four tries in five games and was named player of the tournament.
May 23 — O’Driscoll drops a goal as Leinster win the Heineken Cup with a 19-16 win over Leicester. He had also scored an interception try in the semi-final win over Munster.
June — Plays two Tests on the Lions’ tour of South Africa, but misses the third with concussion.
November 16 — Shortlisted for the IRB player of the year award, but eventually misses out to New Zealand’s Richie McCaw.
2010: January — Voted World Rugby player of the decade by Rugby World magazine.
2011: March 19 — Scores a record 25th Six Nations try in a 24-8 win over England.
May 21 — Wins his second Heineken Cup as Leinster beat Northampton 33-22.
September-October — Captains Ireland to the World Cup quarter-finals.
2012: May 19 — Leinster retain the Heineken Cup with a 42-14 win over Ulster.
2013: March 20 — Suspended for three weeks, having been cited for stamping in Ireland’s final Six Nations game against Italy.
April 30 — Selected for his fourth Lions tour, only the third player to achieve the feat.
May 16 — Signs a new one-year contract with Leinster and the Irish Rugby Football Union, ending speculation he would retire after the Lions tour.
July 3 — Surprisingly left out of the Lions’ matchday squad for the series-deciding third Test against Australia.