British and Irish Lions 2013: Warren Gatland accused of 'terrible mistake' in axing Brian O'Driscoll for final Test

Keith Wood leads outrage at decision to drop veteran for final Test and pick 10 Welshmen

Noosa Heads

The Lions coach, Warren Gatland, found himself at the centre of a maelstrom of controversy last night after dropping Brian O'Driscoll, one of British Isles rugby's heroic figures, from Saturday's do-or-die Test with the Wallabies in Sydney. One high-profile former Lion, the two-tour hooker Keith Wood, described the decision as "a terrible mistake" and accused Gatland of presiding over a Welsh monopoly.

Gatland, a New Zealander, has been coaching Wales since 2007 and included 15 of his players in the 37-man party for this tour of Australia. That domination raised few eyebrows at the time – the Welsh won a third Six Nations title in six years by thrashing England in March and reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup in 2011 – but, by picking 10 of his charges for Saturday's decisive match, he infuriated many Lions followers.

Particularly those in Ireland, who venerate O'Driscoll as a rugby-playing deity. Wood, who played alongside the Dubliner when the Lions went close to beating the Wallabies here in 2001, was flabbergasted, saying that the selection had left him "totally at a loss".

Wood admitted that the ageing O'Driscoll had been "quiet" in the opening Tests – a narrow victory in Brisbane and an even closer defeat in Melbourne – but insisted he should have been placed at the heart of this decisive game rather than been dropped from the match-day squad altogether. "He has been the clarion call since Paul O'Connell picked up his injury," Wood argued, referring to the experienced Irish lock who suffered a broken arm in the first game of the series.

"You could say Gatland is picking on form," Wood added, "but he has chosen an unbelievably direct team with very little guile, specifically to play to a game plan that does not suit a lot of players but suits the Welsh, which is why there are 10 of them in the side. The Lions is about getting the best quality out of the players of these islands, not about having an intransigent plan that is simplistic and low on subtlety."

O'Driscoll has played on three previous Lions treks, and this will be his last. He suffered a final Test defeat here in '01 and was an influential part of the team that went close to prevailing in South Africa four years ago. When he captained the Lions in New Zealand in 2005 and was considered the best attacking outside centre in the sport, he was invalided out of the tour following one of the most infamous assaults in recent rugby history in the opening Test.

He is no longer a serious attacking threat to the best sides in the world and, for this reason, Gatland has recalled Jamie Roberts and shifted Jonathan Davies, the Lions' inside centre in the first two Tests, to his favoured outside position – which happens to be O'Driscoll's role.

Roberts admitted that Gatland had made a "big call". O'Driscoll described himself as "totally gutted". If the tourists are heavily defeated in Sydney on Saturday, he will not be the only one feeling that way.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam