The talismanic Ireland centre played in the first two Tests against Australia, which left the sides level at 1-1 and set up a decider in Sydney. But O’Driscoll was dropped from the starting line-up in favour of Jamie Roberts, and also ditched from the match-day 23.
Gatland said afterwards he was unable to fully enjoy the 41-16 victory which secured the series due to the “vitriolic” abuse he received for making the call. O’Driscoll admitted yesterday he didn’t take much joy in it either, despite finally earning a series win after being on the wrong end of defeats in 2001, 2005 and 2009.
“Do I resent him (Gatland)? Yeah there’s resentment of course. Is he on the Christmas card list? Unlikely,” O’Driscoll admitted to former team-mate Shane Horgan on Sky Sports Rugby Club last night.
“People will say the decision was justified because of the result and the performance.
“I guess the way the team played, I felt within the 13 jersey that I might have been able to do a decent job within that cog of the team.”
The 34-year-old Leinster man said Gatland and his assistant coach Rob Howley broke the news of losing his starting place to him together, but failed to mention he wouldn’t make the bench either: “I didn’t ask them what the bench was, so until the team was read out and I didn’t know that Manu was the spare outside back on the team, so that was kind of a kick in the guts.”
O’Driscoll said he helped Roberts and his centre partner Jon Davies prepare as thoroughly as possible for the game, remembering Ian McGeechan citing Jason Leonard as “the best Lion he had ever coached” due to his willingness to help Paul Wallace after being dropped in 1997. Of course I wanted the team to win. I still wanted to be part of a winning Lions series. It was just a matter of trying to be a really good Lion.
“What should have probably been one of the greatest achievements in my career hasn’t unfortunately turned out to be that case.
“I’ll probably look on some other things that I have won with greater affection because of the manner in which the series finished. Again, I don’t apologise for that, that’s just my gut, it’s just how I feel.
“I look back at the Tour now and I’m glad I can call it a successful Lions series but do I feel as much a part of it as those guys who took the pitch in the final Test? No I don’t think I do.
“Do I look back on it with the same delight that they do? Probably not.”