RTÉ Rugby analyst George Hook believes that Warren Gatland never had any intention of selecting Brian O’Driscoll in his final Lions test team - but says O'Driscoll should not have travelled on the tour.
Hook describes Gatland as “a rubbish coach” and stated that the New Zealander had “never demonstrated a clear understanding of back play” during his coaching career.
The outspoken pundit believes that the reports coming back from the Lions tour are misleading rugby fans, and Gatland has reverted to the players he knows best in an attempt to salvage his reputation.
“This tour has been dreadfully reported. It is being reported back to the Irish people that O’Driscoll is playing brilliantly, which he is not. It is being reported back to the Irish people that this is a very good Lions team, which it is not. It is being reported back that Gatland is actually doing a good job, which he is not.
"He is now up against a wall and he has gone back to what he knows best which is 10 Welshmen. Basically, can Wales beat Australia in Australia? I think not.”
Hook stated he believed it was never Gatland’s intention to have O’Driscoll in the test team, and that injuries to other players was the sole reason he was selected for the first two tests.
"Can Wales beat Australia in Australia? I think not" - George Hook
“Why has he dropped O’Driscoll? There is no doubt his plan was to play Roberts and Davies in the centre. They play the Welsh kind of defence and he has got essentially a Welsh full back so it stood to reason. Then Roberts got hurt so he had to do a mix and match centre partnership with two outsides centres and put Davies out of position at inside centre.
“It never worked. He is playing a game that O’Driscoll clearly doesn’t subscribe to. Anybody that watched O’Driscoll’s after match interview last Saturday (could see) he is clearly unhappy.
“I suspect that Gatland was never going to pick someone who did not agree with his system anyway so I was not remotely surprised by this, and I cannot understand why everyone is jumping up and down about it.
“Warren Gatland was always going to go for a Welsh centre partnership. Gatland is a man who, in his entire career, has never demonstrated a clear understanding of back play.”
O'Driscoll should have retired last year
Hook has previously gone on the record stating O’Driscoll should have retired last year, and also stressed that he feels O’Driscoll should not have gone on the Lions tour when he was obviously not first choice for the test side.
“I think that O’Driscoll should have retired last year, and I've said that before. He is now going to finish his career, but not in the way that the greatest player of his generation should have finished it, and I am incredibly sad for him.
“The fatal mistake that O’Driscoll made was to go on a Lions tour when the team was (already) selected and he wasn’t an obvious first choice. Anyone who suggested that, when the squad was selected, O’Driscoll was a certain starter at 13 knows little or nothing about rugby.
Hook was full of praise of O’Driscoll, rating him as the greatest player of his era, but also pointed out that the attributes that made him great over his illustrious career should not be factored in when deciding on the team to face Australia in the final test in Sydney.
"Anyone who suggested that O’Driscoll was a certain starter at 13 knows little or nothing about rugby"
“I don’t want anyone to think I am being critical of (O’Driscoll), or that I don’t like him. This is one of the greatest players we have ever seen, and a rubbish coach is trying to defend his reputation when he has failed on a Lions tour and O’Driscoll is the fall-guy for it.
“Brian O’Driscoll is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest rugby player of his generation in the world. I, because I’m from a different generation, think that either Jack Kyle or O’Driscoll is the greatest of all time, but, in O’Driscoll’s career, he is the greatest without doubt.
“He is the greatest because not only could he run fast, pass sublimely and was a great attacker, but the extraordinary thing was that he was a great defender. He was a magnificent tackler and did the job of wing forwards on the ground at the ruck. But above all those things he was brave, I think, to the point of being foolhardy.
“But that is how good he was not how good he is, and professional sport is very cruel.
“I don’t think that (anyone who is shocked by the decision) was looking at the match last Saturday. You can’t look at Brian O’Driscoll over a 15 year period, you have to look at him over the last 15 days. He had a poor match in the first test. In the second test for him to hand out an intercept pass is so unlike him.”
Hook did not lay the blame for O’Driscoll’s performance at the feet of the Leinsterman alone, but believes that the offensive systems employed by Gatland and his coaches have not played to O’Driscoll’s strengths.
“He has not handled the ball in an attacking move in two Test matches. If you are not going to give him the ball and use him in an attacking sense, use him at what he is good at, then why bother picking him? Why would you put the lead violinist banging the drums? That is essentially what Gatland has done in the first two tests.”
The former USA coach said his disappointment at the decision stems not from O’Driscoll’s omission, but from the treatment he has had to endure on this tour.
“My entire angst this morning is that this wonderful rugby player has been hard done by, by people who are not fit to lace his boots.”