Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Sentiment swept aside as axe falls on O'Driscoll

O'Driscoll can't even make the bench as Gatland floods the team with Welsh players for Sydney decider

Lock Alun Wyn-Jones will lead the side in place of his injured Welsh colleague Sam Warburton. Photo / Getty Images
Lock Alun Wyn-Jones will lead the side in place of his injured Welsh colleague Sam Warburton. Photo / Getty Images

One of the more astute Lions media throng made an illuminating observation well before the final test team was announced.

Well away, too, from the selection shocks that reverberated from Noosa to the rest of us 1100km south in Sydney. How, he asked, can Gatland get the Lions to play the Welsh way with an Irish captain whose sharpness has decreased on tour?

We got the answer. Gatland would not embrace any sentimental touches for the deciding test in Sydney, there would be no farewell appearance for O'Driscoll on his fourth Lions trip. Not even a place on the bench behind the starting Welsh midfield duo of Jamie Roberts and Gareth Davies. O'Driscoll's race was run, his Lions career had come to a full stop.

His work in Melbourne had been modest and with more troops coming out of the rehab rooms, there was not even room for him on the bench.

Lock Alun Wyn-Jones would lead the side in place of his injured Welsh colleague Sam Warburton as the Lions sought their first series win since 1997. The side is laden with Welsh players, 10 of them with another, Justin Tipuric, in the reserves.

It is a sign that Gatland bossed the final selection meeting and after the moderate work in Melbourne and player repair work, insisted on most of the players who brought Wales the Six Nations silverware in their 30-3 thrashing of England.

Even without Warburton and Alex Cuthbert who have played in this series, Wales have flooded the final side so much the supporters could think about changing their chants from the rollicking Lions, Lions, Lions to Wales, Wales, Wales on Saturday.

Laden or overloaded? Good enough for their own company or the series win? Gatland has gone for the men he knows, the group which fired when the white shirts from England came hunting a Grand Slam in March and were sent away with their considerable rumps kicked.

It's not quite the Canterblacks or the Auckblacks who dominated New Zealand sides at the height of their provincial powers, but picking 10 Welsh players to start with three Irishmen and two England players is a numerical imbalance.

Too bad. Last match, final chance, everything on the line, a place in rich rugby history beckons rather than another notation in the strong showing column.

It is all or nothing and who best to do the job in Gatland's mind because it is his team.
Give it everything, give it some sting, give it the smash and grab which Wales have done. Those will be the rally cries on behalf of the Four Nations collective.

Lions team for third test

Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Jonny Sexton, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sean O'Brien, Dan Lydiate, Geoff Parling, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero. Res: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi.

- NZ Herald

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