Tuesday 12 November 2019

Kate Rowan: We might not like BOD’s omission but Jonathan Davies deserves our support

Kate Rowan

If you have been travelling around Australia for the past month you may have become familiar with the saying, “no dramas”. It is a common colloquial phrase pretty much in line with “no worries”.

If we are to take the whole “no dramas” literally it is in stark contrast to the narrative of this Lions Tour.


There was drama in Brisbane when Kurtley Beale slipped to miss that match winning kick. There was drama when Tommy Bowe came back to be a test starter from what looked like a tour ending broken hand. There was drama in Melbourne when Leigh Halfpenny’s series winning kick went short. There was more drama at the Etihad Stadium when captain Sam Warburton’s hamstring gave in.


Add the bleary-eyed journalists camped outside a suite of conference rooms in the Wallabies’ team hotel on Monday night waiting for the verdict on the appeal on James Horwill’s alleged stamp and the view from the same building of the Sydney Opera house seemed liked the perfect Australian drama cliché.


But now all that has been eclipsed by this supposed “Blasphemy in the face of BOD” selection by Warren Gatland and company on Wednesday.


Since then it would seem some back home have turned O’Driscoll into an almost Princess Diana like figure for collective Irish grief.


True, the decision is a tough one to take for a player who has transcended the game. But there is a reality there for any player - even Brian O’Driscoll - that there are chances you will miss out on selection. Even for the first time in 15 years.


Such is the cruel nature of sport and of all great dramas that there is always a willing understudy. Such is the Irish devotion to BOD, that we have laid most of our focus on him and the new occupant of the Lions number 13 test jersey is very much in a supporting role in terms of media hyperbole.


On Tuesday, a young Welsh speaker from Carmarthenshire tweeted a picture of himself in shorts and flip-flops feeding a wallaby at the Australia Zoo in Queensland.


There is a holiday snap intimacy about the last message Jonathan Davies sent out to the twittersphere before that selection. It could have been any young Lions fan on holiday, something very normal and in opposition to the drama surrounding the centre’s selection.


Before anyone quips about the Llanelli Scarlet feeding a ball to those other Wallabies tomorrow night, that photo and then Davies admission at the Lions press conference that O’Driscoll,  “may not like me saying this, but I grew up watching him play and admiring his rugby. To play against him, and now to have played alongside him, has been wonderful. He has my respect" gives a very human side to the story.


It is that old inspirational tale of boy has childhood hero. Boy grows up. Boy eventually usurps childhood hero.


It may not seem inspirational now to many Irish rugby fans but unfortunately the way in which our and the Lions talisman’s career in that red jersey has come to an abrupt end reflects the cruel reality of sport.


Part of where the emotional driving force behind the O’Driscoll story comes from is the perception that the Lions are now a team bereft of leaders.


What about Jonathan Sexton? Before the Lions conquered the Wallabies in Brisbane, the out half and Warburton were the only two players to speak in the pre-match huddle.


To continue in terms of leaders, what about Jamie Heaslip’s omission from the match day squad? There is a touch of déjà vu about how much fuss is being made about O’Driscoll now versus his incumbent with Davies in the outside centre berth and how Heaslip replaced his Leinster colleague as Ireland captain before this year’s Six Nations.


After Ireland’s hugely disappointing tournament, Heaslip was on the receiving end of much malign. Where as in reality, Heaslip has, is and will continue to be a pivotal leader for Leinster and Ireland.


He has been an important part of this Lions squad in terms of leadership, speaking eloquently to the press, becoming an admired senior player amongst the British and Australian media.


Again, the strange nature of sport is revealed when you consider that the one international where Heaslip’s Ireland looked bright, was probably Davies worst game of the season in the opening Six Nations weekend in Cardiff.


From then on Davies playing went on an upward trajectory towards the situation he is now in. And dare I say for the fear of sounding as if I have turned Welsh, the situation he deserves to be in.


Of the Lions class of 2013 the 25 year-old has played more minutes than anyone else – 423, playing in six games so far, starting five.


There is the Irish argument that O’Driscoll made 23 tackles, missing none while the Welshman missed three out of his 17. But you have to remember that for the Davies’ last two games – the first two tests, he has been played out of his preferred outside centre position, with a partner he only first played two weeks ago in Brisbane.


The Lions midfield should not be suffering too many dramas if Davies can play as he did, with a powerful performance against the Waratahs three weeks ago in his usual position with Roberts at inside centre.


If you still cannot stomach the absence of O’Driscoll and the presence of 10 Welshmen, don’t forget Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Bowe and Seán O’Brien along with Conor Murray on the bench. They could be part of a very special night too.

Online Editors

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