Brian O'Driscoll says he is 'gutted' after he was dropped for the decisive Third Test against Australia in Sydney, one of seven changes made by head coach Warren Gatland
The Ireland centre, who had never previously been dropped in a 14-year test career, learned of his fate just before Gatland announced his remodelled team who will seek to seize back momentumn from Australia and secure a first series triumph in 16 years.
O'Driscoll tweeted: "Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through. £seaofred."
Gatland's decision marks the end of the Irishman's Lions career. The deicision is all the more remarkable because, with tour captain Sam Warburton injured, it had been assumed that O'Driscoll would captian the team in Sydney
Instead, the side will now be captained by lock Alun Wyn Jones and will include a record equalling ten Welsh players - a fact that will only add to the angst being felt across the Irish Sea where the exclusion of O'Driscoll will be seen as a catastrophic error of judgement by Gatland.
Despite robbing his team of vital experience, Gatland was bullish in his defence of the changes that bring fit again Jamie Roberts in for O'Driscoll, Mike Phillips at scrum half for Ben Youngs, Alex Corbisiero replacing loose head Mako Vunipola, hooker Richard Hibbard replaces Tom Youngs, Sean O'Brien in for Warburton at open side and No8 Toby Faletau chosen ahead of Jamie Heaslip. The other change sees Jonathan Davies moved to outside centre to accommodate Roberts while another powerhouse, England's Manu Tuilagi is included amongst the replacements.
Gatland, who made five changes for the 16-15 second test loss to the Wallabies, said;"It all comes down to Saturday. Winner takes all. Brian O'Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final Test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts' presence offered us something more.
"We told him this morning and he was obviously disappointed, as anyone would be. But he appreciated the fact that he was spoken to before the announcement.
"It's the first time that any coach has had that decision with him in 15 years of rugby. It's not easy for that to be the first time, but he's still going to be very important for us for the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership.
"It wasn't about leadership -- it was about picking what we felt was the best team."
"Alun Wyn gets his opportunity on Saturday. He leads from the front and he's been outstanding in the lead up games and was one of the first names on the sheet when he picked the team for the first two Tests."
"We know we can leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across the line. Picking this team was not easy and ultimately with several players available after recovering from injury the head overruled the heart in many selection decisions.
"It has been a challenging tour and we have had our fair share of injuries but we always knew that would be the case."
Meanwhile reports coming out of the Australian camp suggest that veteran flanker George Smith will win his 111th cap against the Lions in Sydney. He was a key member of the 2001 Wallaby side that defeated the Lions by winning the deciding test in that series and will take over from Michael Hooper in a bid to generate quick ball from contact situations.
British and Irish Lions team to face Australia in the third Test at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday, July 6:
L Halfpenny (Wales); T Bowe (Ireland), J Davies (Wales), J Roberts (Wales), G North (Wales); J Sexton (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales); A Corbisiero (England), R Hibbard (Wales), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales, capt), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), S O'Brien (Ireland), Toby Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: T Youngs (England), M Vunipola (England), D Cole (England), R Gray (Scotland), J Tipuric (Wales), C Murray (Ireland), O Farrell (England), Manu Tuilagi (England).