independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Warburton a needless gamble with BOD and POC around

Gatland travels to Australia with the strongest Lions unit ever assembled but his choice for his on-field General is flawed.

This squad glistens with young talent and harnessing that quality would be a challenge any coach worth his salt would relish.

When the Lions take to the field in Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on June 22, however, the Kiwi will be in the stands with an ear-piece and microphone and the man calling the shots will be Sam Warburton.

This kid's talent, leadership qualities and the ferocity of his competitive nature are unquestioned but he's not the right man for this task.

Gatland is gambling when there is no need. He is piling his chips into the middle of the table before anyone else has taken a look at their cards.

In the 2011 World Cup Warburton was a revelation, as a 22 year old he led Wales to their best tournament performance since 87 but he wasn't on the stage when the curtain came down because of his misjudged tip tackle on Vincent Clerc.

Over the past 15 months Warburton has struggled to make the Welsh side and now the likes of the Tullow Tank Sean O'Brien is thrown into the mix for the number seven shirt.

A Lions captain who watches on from the sidelines would be unthinkable but with Warburton it's a distinct possibility.

Gatland's alternatives to Warburton were Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll.

O'Connell, the very successful captain in 2009, is a huge presence. Few players, if any, command the respect that the big Munster lock enjoys.

Gatland has looked on as the Lion-hearted juggernaut propelled Munster to feats against Harlequins and Clermont that anyone scarcely believed possible.

The intensity in invokes in his fellow players is astounding, these games are going to turn into battles and any red-blooded male would go to war with O'Connell.

If O'Connell has presence, then O'Driscoll has the aura. Even at 34, O'Driscoll is universally feared by opposition in the World of Rugby union.

He has the charisma and the class to inspire others and is capable of the piece of individual class or a lightning line-break which can turn a game on its head.

Nobody produces on the biggest stage with greater regularity than O'Driscoll. The bigger the occasion the better for BOD.

Like Warburton, O'Driscoll is not guaranteed his starting spot, especially given the relationship between Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre positions but Davies proved against Ireland this year that he can be flaky and BOD should don the number 13 shirt.

O'Driscoll and O'Connell will undoubtedly prove vital lieutenants for Warburton and Gatland in the battles to come but the feeling that one of them should be donning the armband won't vanish lightly.

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