British & Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies is refusing to be sidetracked by the debate over Brian O’Driscoll’s omission for the third Test against Australia, and has instead paid tribute to the Irish hero he has replaced.
Davies, 25, was a controversial selection at outside centre for the series decider against the Wallabies in Sydney tomorrow, Lions head coach Warren Gatland preferring him as a partner in midfield with Wales team-mate Jamie Roberts and as a result bringing to an end O’Driscoll’s four-tour career in the iconic red jersey.
None of that is Davies’ problem as prepares to face the Australians, having been switched from inside centre, where he partnered O’Driscoll in the first two Tests in the absence of the injured Roberts.
Now it is the turn of the Scarlets back to play in the No 13 Test shirt and despite all the fuss he said he was totally focused on the job at ANZ Stadium this weekend, as was every player in the touring party.
“I don’t know whether everyone was shocked or not [by O’Driscoll’s omission],” Davies said after the team arrived in Sydney yesterday following a four-day detour to a Queensland beach resort, “but the way the boys have trained and the attitude, especially the boys who aren’t involved — obviously a huge disappointment for them — but for them to turn up to training yesterday and today, they make the sessions and prepare the team as best as anyone really
“If they can deliver a high standard you have to work at a high standard, so everyone pulled together and the whole squad is really up for the game Saturday.”
Davies is not blind to the surprise which greeted O’Driscoll’s dropping from the Test squad, the Welshman admitting he grew up watching the Irishman play.
“What he has achieved in the game, no other might do. He has been a great player. He might not like me saying it, but I’ve grown up watching him play.
“I have admired his work, and to have been able to play with him was very special. I have admiration for the man and a lot of respect.
“When I saw I was down for media [duties] today, I did expect a few questions!
“I think that shows how great a player Brian is. I didn’t really expect anything different.
“I have got to make sure I prepare myself for a Test match, and that is what I will be doing and concentrating on.”
O’Driscoll and Davies had been room-mates earlier in the tour, with the former Lions captain praising his junior partner’s outstanding performance alongside Roberts in the 47-17 crushing of the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney three weeks ago.
“He had a massive performance against the Waratahs, and had Jamie and Manu [Tuilagi] been fit for this game, there would have been some serious headaches for Gats in terms of selection,” said O’Driscoll.
Ironically, two weeks on, it is Davies and Roberts starting the third Test with Tuilagi on the bench and O’Driscoll the one with the headache.
Davies has clocked more minutes of game time than any other Lion on this tour and he admitted his selection to start all three Tests was beyond his hopes.
“Obviously that was like the dream. I’ve worked hard and I think I’m just glad to be involved.
“The importance of this game, it’s the biggest game of my career and I need to make sure everyone finishes it off now. We’ve done so well over the last few weeks to gel as a group and come together.
“It’s important now that we want to finish it and it’s do or die on Saturday.
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