Saturday 17 March 2018

Tony Ward: Nothing wrong with a bit of resentment

'I know exactly how O'Driscoll feels about Gatland axe'

Brian O'Driscoll has good reason to feel let down by Warren Gatland as well as the system he trusted
Brian O'Driscoll has good reason to feel let down by Warren Gatland as well as the system he trusted
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

THIRTY-FOUR years on and I still feel resentful at being dropped for Ollie Campbell in the same neck of the woods as Brian O'Driscoll was humiliated.

So, am I surprised that our most decorated player has availed of the first media opportunity since to vent his pent-up anger against the man responsible for making that decision? No, not in the least.

O'Driscoll was asked a straight question and, true to form, he gave a straight and honest answer.

Would Ireland have won with Ward at out-half in 1979? Would the Lions have won with O'Driscoll at outside-centre instead of Jonathan Davies in Sydney in 2013?

We can speculate on both until the cows come home, but the results stand, and by that criterion Warren Gatland and, in my case, Noel Murphy (the '79 Irish coach) stand vindicated.

O'Driscoll's issue, much like mine way back when, isn't about the decision per se – that is the head coach's prerogative – but it is about the rationale behind that decision and about the manner in which it was carried out.

I haven't spoken to O'Driscoll since his return from Australia, but I suspect he, like me, felt let down by a system in which he trusted.

However, I would add that players in general are treated with far more respect today and certainly are much better informed about the selectorial process than was ever the case in my time.

No doubt the cyberspace bloggers will be out in force castigating O'Driscoll for being precious. They are wrong.

No matter what he has achieved in the game, our greatest ever player is human. I thought the manner in which he supported the team during and after the final Test reflected the substance of the man he is.

I'm not too sure I could have carried it off with equal aplomb.

His ability to smile throughout the game, despite sitting in the stand under the media spotlight, was exemplary.

Joining in the post-match celebration cannot have been all that easy either. Yet he did all of that and more with typical class.

So what if he resents Gatland? To this day I resent Murphy and Fergus Slattery, coach and captain respectively, for their lack of sensitivity back then. Time heals and now it matters not a whit. I get on fine with both, but is either on my Christmas card list? What do you think?

I would never have had a pop at Campbell, who is to this day a true and valued friend, and O'Driscoll did not have a go at his replacement Davies.

His resentment is with the coach, and now that he has got that bit out of his system, the real opportunity to elicit revenge of sorts will come when the Welsh visit Dublin under Gatland next February.


One thing Brian has learnt – as I did in my time – is that your nearest and dearest are even more precious in times of crisis and he was fortunate to have his family and those closest to him in Australia.

We did exchange texts in the height of the furore back in July and that was the thrust of the message on both sides.

Davies and Jamie Roberts did all that was asked of them individually and as a pairing in that final Test. O'Driscoll has been at pains to acknowledge as much.

His gripe is with the man who made the decision and credit him for having the honesty to call it as it is. Equally, credit the coach for having the courage of his conviction to make the decision he did.

If the end justifies the means, then Gatland and Murphy were right. However, that is a philosophy I don't always share.

So, O'Driscoll had a cut back. What's wrong with that? The trick now is in turning that resentment into something more positive so that the final chapter in a great career proves to be just that and to hell with the begrudgers.

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