“It’s all about leadership. The Lions had Paul O’Connell, O’Driscoll and Sam Warburton. Now they have no real leadership. Gatland is saying you pick your best 15 and then work out who leads the team. That is not how it is and it’s not how New Zealand picked Richie McCaw. The captain is the crucial man in this team. Looking at the Lions team, I’m really concerned if it’s tight and the heat comes on after 60-65 minutes. There won’t be anyone to go to. Australia have captain James Horwill and scrum-half Will Genia — who do the Lions have?”
“What a way to end a career, in the professional era, of the most-capped Lion. There would have been a fairytale ending to it all if he had captained the side and they won, after all he has been through. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why he [Gatland] has done it. He has never toed the line traditionally.
“He has had some amazing results, he’s a fantastic coach and rightly the Lions coach, but is he just making a statement that he can do this? To not have that experience in the 23 at all is amazing. There seem to be so many of these 50/50 decisions where Gatland has just made changes for changes sake.”
“The changes have occurred because Gatland has panicked a bit. Six changes going into 80 minutes of rugby is a lot and the more you change, the harder the game is. The Wallabies have really got the same side and they’ve got the momentum. O’Driscoll is a great player, but who will be the leaders for the Lions on Saturday? There isn’t anybody anymore. The Welsh won the Grand Slam (in 2012) and those guys know what they’re doing but where’s the X-Factor? Who will do something different?
“The big factor last Saturday in Melbourne was the Aussies tried things and that’s how they got the try. The Lions went out there and just defended. You have to make the advantage line and that’s where the Lions will struggle if they don’t have anything up their sleeve.”
“I’m very surprised, I felt his captaincy would have been very important to him, he is the one to whom the players appear to have been looking up to and he is the one with experience. I don’t think they [O’Driscoll and Jonathan Davies] had been getting on as a unit as such, it just didn’t seem to work in the same way that his relationship with Jamie Roberts did earlier. I am very disappointed but I’ll stand back from criticism, I’m not out there. However, I think it was the incorrect decision.”
“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. Dricco and Jonathan 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. 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.”
“I’ve been uncomfortable throughout this tour whenever Warren Gatland has spoken about the captaincy. He tries to de-power it, he consistently says it isn’t about leadership and that isn’t the most important thing. Having been on two Lions tours myself under [former England skipper] Martin Johnson, I would have said the leadership of the captain was the most important thing. Brian O’Driscoll has been quiet in the two Tests but at every stage he has been the clarion call once Paul O’Connell got injured. I just think Gatland has made a terrible mistake.
“A huge amount rests on Jamie Roberts’ shoulders and they were crying out for him in the last two weeks. I just think Brian’s subtlety off him would have worked. You can say [Gatland is] picking on form but he’s picked an unbelievably direct team with very little guile in it, specifically to play this game plan. You’re asking them to pulverise a team. The Lions are at the end of virtually 12 months of the season, all these guys are pretty tired and you’re looking for the absolute maximum for it to work for them. It can happen, I want it to happen, I’m just a little bit disappointed at the manner in which I think the tradition has been treated.
“The Lions is about getting the best quality out of the players of these islands, not having an intransigent game plan. We’re not seeing that spark that we’re used to seeing from the Lions because it’s a game plan that doesn’t suit an awful lot of the players.
“It suits the Welsh players, that’s why there’s 10 of them playing. We’re not seeing the blend of four teams. That’s what the Lions is about, that’s what makes it so phenomenal.”