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Gareth Thomas Exclusive: I wouldn’t even have BOD on the bench

by Rob Dore | July 3, 2013

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Former Wales and Lions captain Gareth Thomas and now tipping expert for Paddy Power discusses Warren Gatland’s controversial decision to drop Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll from the squad for the third test against Australia.

With the risk of being banned from Ireland for life, I agree with what Warren Gatland’s done.

Of course you can imagine that if Brian O’Driscoll was captain and the Lions won, what an amazing send off to an amazing player that would be. Yes, he’s one of the greatest players to ever put on a pair of rugby boots but there’s no room for sympathy.

The truth is nobody really played well last weekend. Jonathan Davies didn’t play well but he’s held his spot. O’Driscoll’s a high-profile casualty that people are naturally going to talk about.

Dricco and Johnathan Davies didn’t partner all that well together in the second test. What Gatland has gone for is a combination that plays well together. They know each other’s game and Jonathan Davies is lucky to be the survivor of a bad centre partnership only because Jamie Roberts has come in to the side and they’ve played together before. That’s what has kept him in the team.

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If I was a coach and I’m not starting O’Driscoll then I wouldn’t have him on the bench either. Manu Tuilagi for 20 minutes at the end of the game when defences are tired is more of an impact player. It’s going to be really hard for the Irish public to swallow but that’s the reality of it.

Dricco isn’t an impact player. He’s someone who susses out defences, what they do, what they’re up to, what their strengths and weaknesses are and then he tries to exploit them. He doesn’t come on and just go mad for 20 minutes because that’s not his game, it’s not the way he plays. He’s an intelligent player. So when I look at the bench and they put Tuilagi on it instead of him, I get it.

Keith Wood said on Wednesday morning that the decision to drop O’Driscoll was a “terrible mistake”. But If I was a coach, I wouldn’t give a shit what Keith Wood said. I wouldn’t give a shit what I said. I wouldn’t give a shit what anyone else said because if they lose then Warren Gatland is going to get his arse dragged across hot coals. Of course, if you take the money you take the shit. However, if they win then people like Keith Wood are going to go back into their hole.

Ultimately as a coach and as a team that’s what they’re going to be judged on, so sometimes ballsy calls need to be made. This is one I agree with.

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