Sunday 25 February 2018

O’Driscoll ‘devastated’ by axe

IRISH rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll was “totally gutted” today after being sensationally dropped from the Lions' squad.

There was a furious reaction after the 34-year-old was dropped for the Sydney decider against Australia – despite widespread expectation that he would be named as captain.

Team coach Warren Gatland put his neck on the line by not only dumping O'Driscoll from the team but also from the bench.

A family friend told the Herald today that they are extremely upset by the move.

“The fact he tweeted about it shows how devastated he must feel. It's a huge disappointment but that's the nature of professional sport.

“His whole family are down there – his parents Frank and Geraldine even celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Having his family around him will definitely help.”

Amy Huberman and daughter Sadie
Amy Huberman and daughter Sadie
Brian O'Driscoll with his parents Frank and Geraldine on his wedding day

The Leinster star, who made his first Lions appearance in 2001, said: “Obviously [I'm] totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through.”

His wife Amy Huberman who has travelled to Australia with their newborn baby Sadie said that she was “massively proud” of him.

Prior to departing for his fourth tour with the British and Irish Lions, O'Driscoll had declared this series as the Holy Grail of his illustrious career.

The Irish centre has played eight times for the Lions since his debut in Australia in 2001 and this weekend was his last chance of winning a series.

Irish captain Jamie Heaslip was also dropped from the squad that now includes 11 Welsh men, seven English, four Irish and one Scot.

The only silver lining for the Irish contingent was a call up for ‘Tullow Tank' Sean O'Brien. Tommy Bowe and Johnny Sexton make the starting team, while Conor Murray is among the substitutes.

Gatland, who is also the coach of the Welsh national team, defended his decision saying he wanted a winning team.

“Brian was disappointed, but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement,” he admitted.

“It's the first time that a coach has ever made the decision with him in 15 years of rugby.”

But in rugby circles there was widespread shock and even anger among many pundits.

Former Ireland captain Keith Wood argued that Gatland had “made a terrible mistake”.

“I've been uncomfortable throughout this tour whenever Warren Gatland has spoken about the captaincy,” he said.

“Brian O'Driscoll has been quiet in the two Tests but at every stage, he has been the clarion call once Paul O'Connell got injured. I just think Gatland has made a terrible mistake.”

However, RTE pundit George Hook said he failed to see “why everyone is jumping up and down”.

“I think O'Driscoll should have retired last year. He is now going to finish his career not the way the greatest player of his generation should have finished it. I'm incredibly sad for him,” he added

Among the thousands of fans to tweet their disappointment was One Direction star and rugby enthusiast Niall Horan. “Can’t be right! Gatland ya mad yoke! Dropping Brian O'Driscoll. Clearly wants to lose the series,” he said.

O’Driscoll will be replaced in the team by Wales’ centre Jamie Roberts

- Kevin Doyle and Kirsty Blake Knox

Online Editors

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