Mick Cleary: BOD must get the armband
The loss of Sam Warburton is a blow. He is the second Lions captain to have been lost on the tour following the injury to Paul O’Connell.
That level of leadership is not easily replaced. And that is why the Lions should ask Brian O’Driscoll to step in to the breach for the series-deciding Test in Sydney on Saturday.
In the modern era, it’s easy to assume that captaincy amounts to no more than appointing a bloke to toss a coin and decide which end to defend.
Water-carriers are miked up, instructions are taken onto the field and so many plays are choreographed.
However there is no doubt that the heartbeat of this side still resides in the captain.
And for this particular Test, the crucial, nerve-jangling reckoner, the captain will be a key figure. He will set the tone. And he will make the crucial decisions.
There have been question marks raised about O’Driscoll’s form. No one though can question his presence
The outside centre position is one that, of course, could be filled by Jonathan Davies but the Welshman simply does not have the stature of O’Driscoll. Australia would rather face Davies in the centre than O’Driscoll.
O’Driscoll stands alone on merit. However, what has become clear is that the Lions do not have enough real leaders now that O’Connell, and subsequently, Warburton have been ruled out.
Warburton was magnificent on Saturday in Melbourne, as a player foraging in the lose and winning turnovers, and as a leader taking the game to Australia he was exemplary.
The Lions will miss his skills as a breakaway forward but they also need to make sure that they have someone of his reassuring calibre in their ranks. O’Driscoll is that man.
The Lions now have to decide the composition of their back row and the easy pick would be to replace with Justin Tipuric, his Welsh colleague.
But the Lions will be mindful that Sean O’Brien offers a much greater physical presence.