James Lawton on the British and Irish Lions: Was the axing of Brian O'Driscoll sacrilege? Don't be silly... it is time to live in the present

When we looked for Brian O'Driscoll's flame we found it had run rather low

Something needs to be injected into the tide of Irish tears – and general outrage – flowing around the exclusion of Brian O'Driscoll from the third Test on Saturday.

It is something called reality, an understanding that there is a point when a coach has to make one of the big decisions of his career without the merest nod to sentiment or respect or some desperate yearning to turn the clock back for a day.

This was O'Driscoll's last run at the glory, a record-equalling fourth Lions tour. He was given two Tests to prove that not only could he resist for a few more weeks the dying of the most inspiring of his light, he could hit the Wallabies with some of the best of his work, one last time illuminate the depth of his meaning as one of the greatest players the game has seen.

Doubtless BOD has paid the freight on his trip to Australia. A sage and utterly committed figure, his experience and savvy were severely tested during the shambolic refereeing in the first Test – but he kept his head and was a mature influence. However, something more was required going into the second Test when the Australians were plainly committed to an all-out assault to regain lost ground.

Defensively, O'Driscoll has been impeccable but for coach Warren Gatland there was an unavoidable fact as he weighed his options for the decisive battle in Sydney. O'Driscoll's genius in attack has plainly been in irreversible decline.

The Lions' performance was a grave disappointment in its passive nature. Such an approach will not do in the final challenge.

Not so long ago the explosive presence of O'Driscoll would have been a guarantee against another display of reduced Lions aggression. Unfortunately, in the second Test O'Driscoll could not inflict himself. No doubt this was partly because of the wider deficiencies of the team, but when he did get fleeting opportunities his reactions had rarely been so disappointing. When we looked for the flame we found it had run rather low.

O'Driscoll's admirers can hardly claim that his weight and distinction have been somehow marginalised by the overwhelming Welsh presence which provides 10 of Saturday's team.

When Gatland considered his starting team and his bench deployment he asked one huge question: who was best guaranteed to throw a Wallabies team already sniffing blood on to the back foot? Was it the restored impact of Jamie Roberts alongside his familiar partner Jonathan Davies or the retention of the O'Driscoll-Davies combo which disappeared so alarmingly at the crunch in Melbourne?

Gatland made the hard decision in favour of Roberts and augmented it with the back-up power of Manu Tuilagi.

That may have been sacrilege in O'Driscoll's homeland but it made a deal of sense elsewhere. He was invited to make one last run for the sunlight and, heaven knows, he did not back away from the challenge. However, nor did he invade it with the best of his past. So what did his embattled coach have to do? It was, like it or not, live in today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz