O’Driscoll still a centre of excellence - Horan

Wallaby legend adds his voice to the debate on the Irishman’s omission from third test

The British and Irish Lions are desperate to beat Australia and end 16 years of failed attempts to claim a series victory.

Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 11:48

Fox Sports Australia rugby analyst and former Wallaby legend Tim Horan is the latest to add his voice to the Brian O’Driscoll debate suggesting that Lions coach Warren Gatland erred in dropping the Irish centre.

Horan, who was a young O’Driscoll’s favourite player, wrote on the Australian network’s website: “Brian O’Driscoll should not only be in the Lions side for Saturday night’s (stet) decider, he should be leading the team onto the field as captain. This isn’t based on sentiment.

“You have to pick your best players, and Brian’s form has been pretty good on tour. He’s looked sharp in the last two Test matches with limited opportunities and there is no better big-game player in the Lions team who can perform on this stage. There is no one as good as O’Driscoll in world rugby in reading the play and game management.

“Ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzy once said he “skates to where the puck is going to be”, and Brian is like that in rugby terms. He studies a game like no other and anticipates what the play will be in two or three phases, and puts himself in position. His defence has been outstanding on tour - I don’t think he’s missed a tackle in two Tests.

“It has been said Brian’s leadership alone should see him the in team but on these tours, it’s form first, leadership second. And his form should have warranted selection. At this level of the game, if you have a team with a game-plan and effective system, the leadership is a huge priority.

“If a team is picked on form, you give yourself the best chance of winning. In attack, he hasn’t been exceptional but forget talk that his best attacking days are past. There was one particular play in Brisbane in the first half that was world class. It wasn’t a run or tackle, but just the timing of a particular pass to demonstrate he still has it at this level.

“I would still have included Jamie Roberts, but partnered him with O’Driscoll, not Jonathan Davies. Behind closed doors, I am sure the omission would be deeply disappointing for Brian. He was desperate to win a Lions series at his fourth attempt.

“If the Lions get up, he will still be part of a wining squad but it’s always difficult to feel that as keenly when you’re not in the match-day squad. What you can be sure of is, despite his disappointment, Brian will be doing absolutely anything he can to help the Lions win this Test: whether it be running water, offering advice or general words of support. That’s the sort of man he is.

“The sting of this will subside, and I am sure he will know one missed Test will not even go close to defining his 133-Test career or his superb legacy in rugby. If they do lift the Tom Richards Cup, he would have been largely responsible for it.

Gatland has rolled the dice and returned to the Welsh formula. It’s a bit like taking your own Webber barbecue over to a mates place. He’s saying: “Ok, I am going to stick with what I know. It looks a stronger team, overall, than the first and second Tests, other than in the second row.

“Having played against Brian in his first two Test matches in 1999, I am sure he still has a few left in him for Ireland over the next eight months until he retires. This is not the end for one of the game’s great centres.”

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