Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll has admitted to one of the hardest things to deal in the aftermath of getting dropped by Warren Gatland during the 2013 Lions tour of Australia.
O’Driscoll was infamously dropped from the 23 to face Australia in the third test that tour, the first time he had not been selected when fit for the best part of 14 years as a professional. Gatland overlooked the Irishman for the 13 jersey in favour of a young Jonathan Davies, in what was almost certainly the most controversial Lions’ selection call in history.
In the wake of that decision, how Gatland managed training that week irked the Irishman further. Speaking in an in-depth interview on The Rugby Centurions podcast on TheXV, O’Driscoll recalls a sense of not being connected to the Test team after not being allowed to train with them in their final training session.
“I came down on the Friday and on our whiteboard it said, ‘Non-23 are not needed at training’,” O’Driscoll tells The Rugby Centurions Podcast. “I thought, they don’t even want us to hold shields. I found that very difficult.
“You just want to have the connectivity to it, and that’s the issue with Lions tours – there is a breakaway group in that final week that just want to be home. I wasn’t ready to be part of that, I just wanted to be part of the group that could create history and even have a small impact in getting them prepared.
“I said to Gats a few years afterwards that I thought that was a mistake, they should have given an option to players that wanted to go training to go and be part of the collective, because in so many teams it’s those that don’t get chosen that prep the team for battle.
“I said that as captain for years and then all of a sudden I had to live it. And I couldn’t be poacher turned gamekeeper because it didn’t suit Gats. I remember that being a long 48 hours before the game and just not being involved in the environment properly.”
While he recalls the series as bittersweet, he’s happy to be involved in an elusive winning series.
“It was really important to me to finally win a series,” O’Driscoll says. “I have been very disappointed, we should have won in ‘01, I was sent out of the door in ‘05 and then in ‘09 it was a very, very tight series.
“To get to win one in 2013, albeit from the stands in the third Test was a bit bittersweet. You want to be part of the celebrations, to be kitted out, but next-best to that is being someone that was involved in the series and still having a trophy at the end of it.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now