O’Driscoll decision is tip of iceberg as Lions look buried for decider
Warren Gatland may have shown admirable courage with his team selection for the Lions’ decider with Australia, but his decision to largely ignore form and go for players he knows best from his days as Wales coach looks set to horribly backfire.
Gatland has made six changes from the Lions team that lost the second test, with 10 Welsh faces among his starters, despite the fact that Wales have tended to struggle in their most recent meetings with Australia.
Wales have lost eight on the bounce with the Aussies, including four defeats in 2012 and it is no surprise that Australia have shortened into 5/6 to triumph in Sydney.
The omission of Brian O’Driscoll is the one that will make all of the headlines and his tackling at centre could be an especially big miss. O’Driscoll has made 23 tackles in the series thus far without missing one.
Jamie Roberts comes in instead and is one of three Welsh players in particular that have been thrust in boldly after barely performing all series.
Richard Hibbard’s line-outs have been poor for the most part and so there will be big pressure on his throwing, while Mike Phillips has been average and failed to provide enough quick ball at scrum half.
With Tom Croft also left out, it seems that Gatland is prepared to sacrifice the line-out and focus on gaining scrum dominance, with the likes of Mako Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi on the bench to come on as impact subs.
Alun-Wyn Jones will skipper the side, but it is also a slight worry that the Lions may be missing some true leadership, with the four players considered the most likely captains before the tour all not playing for various reasons.
The Lions are now underdogs at 1/1 to win the decider.
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