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Will Carling: 'No logic' to dropping Brian O'Driscoll for final Test against Australia

Updated: Thursday, 04 Jul 2013 11:09 | Comments

Brian O'Driscoll taking part in a training session ahead of the final Test
Brian O'Driscoll taking part in a training session ahead of the final Test

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Former England captain Will Carling believes British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has made a huge error in dropping Brian O'Driscoll for the Test decider against Australia, claiming the decision has "no logic."

Gatland caused a massive stir after controversially opting to omit the experienced Ireland centre as one of six changes to last weekend's 16-15 defeat to the Wallabies.

O'Driscoll had been tipped as a possible captaincy replacement for the injured Sam Warburton, but not only did the 34-year-old lose his starting spot to Jamie Roberts, he also failed to even make the matchday 23 for the winner-takes-all third Test in Sydney.

Carling, who toured with the Lions in 1993, admitted he was stunned by the decision and believes O'Driscoll should have been involved and also named as skipper.

He told The Sun: "My jaw almost hit the floor when I heard the news.

"Gatland will be hung out to dry if he gets this one wrong and I firmly believe he has made the wrong call.

"There is just no logic to his decision. I would never pick a team on sentiment but O'Driscoll would still be in my team on merit.

"Okay, he hasn't set the world alight in this Test series but in make-or-break games like this you need players of proven world class.

"O'Driscoll ticks all the boxes. And because of that I'd have given him the captaincy."

"Gatland will be hung out to dry if he gets this one wrong and I firmly believe he has made the wrong call" - Will Carling

Carling is not the only former Lion to have criticised the decision to axe O'Driscoll, but Gatland has received a measure of support from England's World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.

Woodward, who represented the Lions as a player in 1980 and 1983 and as coach in 2005, believes Gatland was right to leave O'Driscoll out of his starting line-up, although he believes the Irishman should have been on the bench.

"A head coach cannot afford to be sentimental," said Woodward, who appointed O'Driscoll as his Lions captain in 2005.

"Dropping Brian O'Driscoll is the right decision based on his form and the way the Lions need to play to win this series."

He added in his column in the Daily Mail: "I agree with dropping O'Driscoll from the team, but he should not have been left out of the match-day squad.

"I would much rather have the 125 caps and game-changing intelligence of O'Driscoll to call upon in the final 20 minutes of a must-win Test than the inexperience of Manu Tuilagi.

"I admire Warren Gatland for making this call. When you are under pressure as a coach you go back to what you know, and for Gatland that means the Welsh power game.

"But I hope his choices on the bench do not come back to haunt him as there is a lack of real impact players.

"With the exception of leaving out Alex Cuthbert - the only decision I would seriously question - the head coach has named the most intimidating line-up at his disposal. Not the most skilful - and not necessarily the best - but certainly the most powerful." 

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