Oliver Brown: 'Why doesn't Gatland replace Sexton with Neil Jenkins...'
It is, by any measurement, a preposterous decision. Ten Welshmen starting for a team labouring under the misnomer of the British and Irish Lions? Why does Warren Gatland not just jettison out-half Jonny Sexton for Neil Jenkins, his kicking coach, and have done with it?
It is also a brazen insult to the very concept of the Lions, intended to signify an unbreakable alliance of four home unions and two sovereign states but in reality more saturated in Welsh partisanship on this tour than if they were headquartered in Ebbw Vale.
Gatland might care to be reminded, in his hour of apparent panic and despite all his accomplishments in his last six years as Wales coach, that the pool of talent at his disposal for Saturday's showdown in Sydney extends beyond Offa's Dyke.
Forget this wearisome argument that nationality is irrelevant even when the starting XV at the ANZ Stadium are two-thirds Welsh. This is, to all intents and purposes, Wales versus Australia, with a couple of sops thrown to Alex Corbisiero and Sean O'Brien as if they are afterthoughts, alien elements disturbing the giant gene pool from the valleys.
Gatland's move suggests the very essence of 'bottling'. At the point of greatest pressure, with 16 years of pent-up frustration needing to be expiated in 80 minutes of thunderous rugby, he reverts to type.
He trusts only in his boys, in the lieutenants whom he personally knows. He imagines he is back in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium, the strains of 'Land of My Fathers' threatening to elicit some emotion from that inscrutable Kiwi facade.
So, here we go: Wales against Australia, Part Nine. Can somebody remind me how the previous eight turned out? Oh yes, eight defeats, with four in 2012 alone. What a perfect opportunity for Gatland to try to buck the trend by naming the largest Welsh contingent in a starting line-up since 1950.
When I spoke to Australia coach Robbie Deans in March, he predicted that the calls by Gatland, his fellow New Zealander, would pivot entirely upon Wales' decisive Six Nations victory over England, the teams' final international before Lions selection.
Granted, it was a trouncing. But on the basis of a single result is not a Lions team built. It was not an excuse for Gatland to construct a team of such lopsidedness in Welsh favour that his men might as well swap the four-quartered badge for a daffodil.
The overwhelming preponderance of one home nation within the Lions collective is not, historically, a harbinger of great success. Clive Woodward's move in selecting 20 Englishmen on the 2005 tour of New Zealand culminated in a grim defeat.
Gatland has embraced a similar philosophy this time, sharpening the 'win or bust' nature of Saturday's confrontation. Wales are, naturally, his primary source material but we forget that this was the same Wales side who lost to Ireland in their opening Six Nations game and who, before George North went over for his tide-turning try in Paris, were deemed to be psychologically shot to pieces after eight Test losses on the spin.
The authors of that trauma were, to a large extent, Australia, who had cemented their stranglehold over Wales with Kurtley Beale's last-second try in Cardiff last December.
As John Eales suggested when Gatland called up 15 Welsh players to the Lions squad: "If he does decide to run with a Welsh-dominated side, that country's poor record against the Wallabies might be more significant than he would like to concede."
Memories of recent failures are not simply expunged at a stroke.
If Gatland's gamble backfires on Saturday, he is destined to be denigrated not just for making the wrong call, but for making it for all the wrong reasons. (© Daily Telegraph, London)