Warren Gatland’s decision to leave Brian O’Driscoll out of the squad is not really brave or bold, it is pragmatic.
It is about as pragmatic as it gets but it may well prove to be very misguided.
Think about your work and the decisions your boss makes. When they’re up against it, when the pressure is on, they will inevitably turn to the staff they know best and have known the longest.
It is the way of the world; in these situations sometimes familiarity and reliability supersede talent.
Is that so wrong? What would you do?
Gatland has picked a squad he believes has the best chance of beating Australia, it is as simple as that. Does it matter that there are 10 Welshman starting the game?
It very much depends on whether you view the Lions through a misguided romantic haze or whether winning the test series is your overriding priority.
There were nine Welsh players in the Lions team who won that still famous tour in New Zealand in 1971. Did their dominance lessen the achievement, or enjoyment of it, among Lions fans whatever their nationality? No, of course not.
But if his decision is not a gamble, is it a good one? Well, it is certainly a risk. Already without Paul O’Connell and Sam Warburton through injury, O’Driscoll was the default leader in this team.
Rugby test matches are littered with examples of inexperienced captains making wrong calls in the heat of battle. Calls that have cost games. If it’s close on Saturday with 20 minutes to go, the Lions may well miss O’Driscoll’s cool head, experience and leadership if nothing else.
Will they miss him as a player? In defence he has been terrific but Gatland has decided that in attack he needs someone to force the Wallabies onto the back foot, which the Irish talisman has not managed so far.
The problem with the squad he’s picked is that it is incredibly one dimensional. It is full of powerful, straight running ball carriers who will aim to batter the Aussies into submission.
If it works then Gatland’s choices will be justified. If it doesn’t, because his replacements mirror those who are starting, he will not be able to change his style of play mid game.
O’Driscoll on the bench would have given him that option. And there lies the weakness because Test matches at this level rarely follow a predictable pattern.
Lions team info. Sorry but you have just handed to series to Australia. 7 chances and still no real match winner
Well done WG, bold and brave selection that was required to beat this improving Aussie team
The undeniable truth is that the improving Australians probably deserve to have won this series already and without the brilliance of Leigh Halfpenny’s boot they certainly would have done.