Numero Uno, and Triskaidekaphobia

There is one story today – Gatty. Brian O’Driscoll is mere collateral damage – Gatty has picked the team he wanted for the biggest game of his career. About the team, more anon, but let’s just consider something for a second.

When rumours were flying that Gatty was going to be offered the big gig, the WRU were aghast – in 2001, the Liiiiiiiiiiiiions took their coach, and he returned a lame duck, shelled by his players who thought they didn’t get a fair crack. This time, it was agreed Gatty would take the winter off Wales to concentrate on watching Saracens (we can only assume, judging by the gameplan). But what is unavoidable is this – Gatty will be Wales coach on Sunday morning. Even if he genuinely thought his best team contained only a handful of Welshmen, can you really see him picking it, given he’ll be in charge of the same men next week?

He has to balance those two facts for this team – if he picks a shed-load of Welshmen and loses, his day job is actually easier than dropping them all and winning. It’s an uncomfortable truth, and it’s not all Gatty’s fault. The Liiiiiiiiiions took the plunge on a coach of one of the constituent nations, and it looks like it might backfire. In fact, even if they win, what damage is done to the Lions “concept” (Sky alert) by so nakedly favouring “your boys”? It’s an interesting question.

Last week we felt the team showed a refreshing lack of Welsh bias, but this week’s side is almost trying to write that abberation of a performance out of history.  ‘This is the team I’ve wanted to play’, Gatty apears to be saying, ‘and injuries to my key men have stopped me up until now’.  The hell with the breakdown, the lineout, Tom Croft, that small hooker who can run with the ball, passing in the backline – instead, let’s just try to bludgeon the opposition.

So, in fact, the selection of least resistance is this: if in doubt, Irish/English/Scottish out. But let’s talk positive first.

Given the BOD furore, the rest of the team selection has barely been noticed , but he’s injected a serious quotient of prime beef into what was an undernourished pack, and recalled Mike Phillips at scrum-half. At the risk of trying to second-guess the gameplan from the team-sheet, which has proved a fool’s errand so far, it looks more than ever that the team is set up to play Warrenball in its purest form.

The pack now has the ballast to break the gainline, and the monstrous three-quarter line is now finally in place as Gatland probably always wanted it.  With no fewer than ten Welsh starting, he’s gone for what he knows best, but that which has repeatedly – and if we hear about how close the games were one more time… – come up short against Australia, no fewer than six times in the last 18 months.  They’re going to try and run the bus over Australia – problem being Australia have quite a few nippy mopeds and sports car who could sidestep a bus blindfolded.

The decision to drop BOD will turn out to be a sentiment-ignoring masterstroke which won the Lions a first series in 16 years, or a stick with which Gatland will be beaten till kingdom come should the Lions lose.  As Irish supporters, the temptation is to call Gatland a pr*ck, adopt a ‘how dare he’ attitude, and start ironing your Wallaby shirt in protest.  But even trying to look at it with cold, hard eyes (we’re doing our best here, people, but it ain’s easy), this looks an exceptionally risky call.

Before the series, we hoped that Gatland’s plan would be to augment his straight-running Welsh backline with the subtlety that Sexton and O’Driscoll would bring to proceedings, and that their creativity and passing skills would make the difference.  So far, that has not come to be, as the backline has been stifled by a negative kick-heavy gameplan and lack of go-forward ball from the pack, and a struggling setpiece. It’s well and good arguing that the team is picked for a specific gameplan, as opposed to getting his Welsh chaps on the field, but the point is moot – it’s the Welsh gameplan, ergo he picks the Welsh players.  No room for creativity here.  That O’Driscoll should be the fall guy is extraordinary.  Davies was no less effective in his role at inside centre.  It’s worth viewing this excellent video put together by Murray Kinsella, demonstrating how the partnership has failed.  But he can bosh harder than Drico, so he’s picked.

Davies (admittedly, out of position) missed three tackles in Melbourne and the AAC try went through his real estate. On the flip side, he has played well when at 13 on tour, and it’s not his fault Gatty has picked him out of position. Still, to be selected ahead of a man who has started every Lions test he has been available for, going back 12 years, is a huge shock. It’s also heavily ironic, given it was Gatty who parachuted Drico into a game against Australia in 1999, before he’d even been capped by Leinster.

With O’Connell and Warburton already out, it also leaves the team worryingly short of leaders.  Gatland mentioned that they picked the team first and the captain second, which is fine, but in the white heat of a do-or-die deciding test, O’Driscoll’s defensive organisation and inspirational leadership would surely be invaluable. With Jamie Heaslip out as well, they have been left with precisely zero national captains in the team (whatever you make of Heaslip’s armband-wearing career to date).

The loss of those three aside, the pack looks a bit smarter this time, although Tom Youngs can be considered unlucky.  Richard Hibbard makes the cut by dint of his physique, as opposed to any particularly great rugby played on tour so far.  Toby Faletau is a good call, and for all the grunt work Heaslip has put into the first two tests, Faletau would have been unlucky to go home without featuring in the test side.  Sean O’Brien’s elevation to the team is long overdue.  The hope would have been that Gatland would go for broke, and switch the backrow wholesale, with Justin Tipuric at openside and O’Brien at 6, but it was far-fetched. It looks pretty unbalanced, and the suspicion is that Michael Hooper George Smith will be wearing a big smile today.  As much as Drico doesn’t suit the crash-bang gameplan, neither does Tipuric.  He’s the excetion that proives the rule, a Welshman who should be in the team, but isn’t.

Mike Phillips is the other fortunate starter, picked on blind faith more than anything.  Conor Murray retains his place on the bench, which is the least he deserves.  While none of the scrummies have shot the lights out, Murray has been the most accomplished over the whole series, and his newfound understanding with Jonny Sexton would have been worth exploring in the final test.  Phillips owes his coaches one for sure – particularly after the first test.

Gatty has picked a team which will delight Australia – they fear only one player in the Lions team, Sean O’Brien, and he is playing out of position to accomodate a non-carrying, non-passing tackling machine. They will be confident of winning the series, particularly if the day is dry – they haven’t had much luck so far, and it’s hard not to envisage a scenario where they get a break or two and end up ahead by double figures.

But Gatty’s team also will delight his employers – he’s looking after number one, and if the Lions win the series, great. If not, hey – the WRU and their players will be happy – which makes Gatty happy.

Postscript: the heavy doses of Lions-nostalgia have included numerous hour-long tear-soaked documentaries about the great Lions tours, the 1974 one chief among them. Every time Willie John McBride is asked about it, he is at pains to describe how, at the end of the final test, the XV went straight across to applaud the dirt-trackers – he is rightly and justifiably proud of the squad unity he presided over, and anyone from the tour insists it was a huge factor in their success. Rewind the clock back four years – the Lions, bruised and battered, went into the third test with a near-scratch side, yet played as enterprisingly as ever and took a well-deserved win home. The entire squad were overjoyed and it was clear the connection that had been made. Any thoughts on what the likes of Stuart Hogg and Drico are thinking right now?

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82 Comments

  1. Rex Rexroth

     /  July 3, 2013

    Shocking stuff altogether.
    It’s Irish rugby’s Saipan. Except this time everyone is in agreement.

  2. Colly Noonan

     /  July 3, 2013

    It would appear that you can’t tell the Coach that his tactics are rubbish without him throwing the toys out of the pram.

  3. abitofshoepie

     /  July 3, 2013

    G’day…I am so tempted to become an Aussie for 80 mins on Saturday. Not because of any bitterness wrt BOD/GOD not being picked, but because we need the people who pick Lions coaches to sit up and realise that something needs to change before fans/southern hemi-sphere teams lose interest in the concept. Does anyone else see the point in having a dream-team style pick of the best B&I players and then deciding to play such a one-dimensional and predictable game? Wallabies by 6, with ‘if only we had our captain’ being used as an excuse for defeat.

    • It’s dispiriting. We stirred up a bit of controversy a couple of weeks ago with our assertion that we weren’t all that cut up as to whether the Loins won or not, but the fact that there hasn’t been much to cheer goes a long way towards that.

      People talk about ’embracing the ethos of the Lions’, but the point is surely about embracing how fragile the concept of the Lions is, and that it needs to be nursed bak to health. Geech’s happy-clappy tour went a long way towards this, but the work is being undone by Gatland’s sledgehammer approach.

  4. Mary Hinge

     /  July 3, 2013

    If BOD was to be dropped (shocking decision) then Tuilagi deserved the 13 shirt. Good calls re Corbisiero and Gray on the bench. Australia to win 23 -18.

  5. Stevo

     /  July 3, 2013

    I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since the selection for the first test. That was slightly ameliorated by the selection for the second test, but any good feeling was quickly dashed by the gameplan the team employed. I’m not ironing my Wallabies jersey, but I’m not sure I’ll bother watching the game. There’s plenty of other things I could spend my Saturday doing than watch the Welsh team go down to another dull as ditchwater series defeat.

  6. Brian

     /  July 3, 2013

    Something that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is the loss of O’Driscoll’s work over the ball in midfield. I think without a ground-hog openside (or Heaslip) the Lions could be caught short looking for the continuity needed to bust over the Wallabies.

    • Yup. And this is the week where Romain Poite is the ref, so he’d have more leeway than previously. An odd time not to target the breakdown specifically.

      • With George Smith coming back (after a 3 year absence from international duty, and in what will probably be his last Test cap, with Deans allegedly saying to Gill to wait until he’s earned 110 caps to get that kind of loyalty from a coach), I can’t see why you would go out of your way to not target the breakdown, but people seem to be putting SOB on a pedestal as a result of RWC11 (where Australia played an 8 at 7).

    • abitofshoepie

       /  July 3, 2013

      Yep…a glaring hole which I’m suprised the coaching team didn’t cover.

    • osheaf01

       /  July 3, 2013

      Well, at least Tipuric is available on the bench…

  7. ORiordan

     /  July 3, 2013

    BOD got penalised I think 3 times for his over the ball work in the first 2 tests so this was more of a liability than an advantage however I agree Poite may have a different interpretation.

  8. Buckfast Bertie

     /  July 3, 2013

    If I’m honest, I find it a little rich that the loss of the Lions’ ethos is only now mentioned when the Irish (and Lions) talisman that is BOD is dropped – as a Scot, it had gone a long time ago

    • ORiordan

       /  July 3, 2013

      Yeah, there were no Irish Lions on the team that won the series in 89 and there hasn’t been a Scot starting a test game since 97 (I think?) so it is hardly the case that there needs to be a quota. There definitely seems to be a case of “how very dare he” from the Irish commentariat – Keet Wood was practically in tears and I expect Gerry Thornley will be in haut dudgeon as well. As always the result will determine how the tour will be viewed. Lose, and the knives will be out and the Lions damaged with accusations of Woodwardian favouritism and I expect it won’t take long before some players vent their dissatisfaction to the press. Win, and Gatty can look smug about the ends justifying the means and the nay sayers will be muted.

      • moreinhope

         /  July 3, 2013

        I agree with Buckfast Bertie and ORiordan on this one. It’s more the general conservatism that is leaving me a little cold. Where is the breakout player on this tour? I was hoping Hogg, Tipuric, Gray or even Zebo might light proceedings up. I don’t feel they were in Gatland’s plans from the off and there was little they could do to change his mind.

        Also the team he put out against the Brumbies was quite appalling. Drafting in Twelvetrees, Wade and Williams to fulfil a fixture he had no interest in was a low point (nothing against those players). Still as ORiordan says if he goes and wins on Saturday they will have their ‘immortality’ and Gatland can lord it over everyone.

        • Yeah, I’d fully endorse this moreinhope. I do feel tremenfously sad on a personal level for O’Driscoll, but it’s also the narrowminded gme plan which drains the enthusiasm. The sense that the rigid gameplan can’t be augmented by including more skilful players and that they must be slaves to the system is such a depressing notion that it’s hard to get behind the Lions in this match.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  July 3, 2013

      Yeah, but the difference is Scotland are muck. Only two pro teams, an international side that play a style of turgid sludgeball that makes DK look visionary. The SRU have only themselves to blame for the lack of Scots on tour(although I do agree, there should have been more, Brown and Hines for sure).

      • Saul Evans

         /  July 3, 2013

        Leinsterlion there is no difference. Either you agree with the concept of quotas or you don’t…and before you start slagging Scotland they beat the Aussies last year and Ireland this year.

      • Don

         /  July 4, 2013

        LeinsterLion, you are the munstermicko of these pages and give all Leinster fans a bad name. If you cannot add anything constructive, then dont add anything at all.
        It wasnt so long ago that our team wasn’t the most attractive in the north, in case you have forgotten.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  July 4, 2013

          I think pointing out the SRU’s failings is constructive, the reason for the lack of Scots on tour lies solely at their door. Last time I checked the Scottish national side hasnt played watchable football in years. In what reality is pointing that out deemed unacceptable?
          I have criticised Ireland just as heavily, It just so happens our pro system is producing good players as evinced by Leinster (and Munster) success. I think most Scottish fans arent as precious as you and can see the wood from the trees. The SRU need a radical lobotomy if they are not to permanently fall out of the top ten.

          Also get a sense of humour.

  9. Len

     /  July 3, 2013

    I still want the Lions to win because that’s what I Dricco wants but part of me would love to see Gatty shown up for his selection policy. There’s been mention else where that Roberts and Dricco might not both have made the 80 and that’s why one was dropped. Personally I don’t buy that as Roberts is far more likely to fail the 80 min given he’s only back from injury and his recovery is still questionable. It looks as though any margin calls have all gone to Welsh men. Agree re Tupric, he should be on. Great quote from Robert Kitson in the Guardian “if dropping O’Driscoll is the answer, what on earth is the question?”. Oz by 10+.

  10. The cat who never sleeps

     /  July 3, 2013

    On purely playing terms, there “might” be an argument for dropping BOD, in that Father Time has rendered him not quite the player of yesteryear…but these big tests come down to other things like thinking clearly under pressure, not panicking if Australia hit the front, reading the game etc. It’s not hard to imagine that if Australia build an early lead, the Lions could implode. If you remove the Welsh v England came from the ledger, how well have Wales played in the last 18 months…?

  11. Jlo

     /  July 3, 2013

    Its a bit like selecting 10 munster players on the Irish team, not that that would ever happen

    • Leinsterlion

       /  July 3, 2013

      Conor George can dream, Conor George can dream……….

  12. It just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I concede that I’m a Leinster and Ireland fan, and therefore biased towards the Irish contingent on the Lions, but no part of me can agree that Davies is a better player than BOD. And some of the vitriol on offer in the Twittersphere about damage to the Lions ethos by picking 10 Welshmen, etc is embarrassing and wide of the mark.

    My concern about this non-selection is that the Lions are supposed to showcase the best of these Islands in terms of both physical and TECHNICAL ability. With such a negative, risk averse selection Gatland is bringing us down a path where physicality is the only ability worth its salt. To me, that is the really, really sickening part of BOD’s non-selection.

    BOD is on the wane from a physicality perspective, nobody can deny that, but his nous around the park, his skill-set, technical ability, and vision are still the best these islands have to offer.

    There is not a player currently playing in these four nations that can spot an opportunity and execute to the same precision as BOD, and to not see that in one of the biggest matches in world rugby is what makes me sad. By this selection (and the continued non-selection of Tipuric), Gatland is making a statement on behalf of us all that we are only able to compete with low risk, high physicality rugby where vision, play making, on field decision making and technical ability are not necessary and are not a vital, integral part of how we play rugby.

    And that makes me sad.

    • Great post, especially the last paragraph. Agree totally. Depressing that there is no room in the neanderthal bosh-em-up gameplan for the most skilful players available – BOD and Tipuric.

      • The motivation to move family stuff around so I can watch the Lions on Saturday (as I have done for every Saturday game so far much to the wife and kids chagrin) is seriously lacking now.

        I probably still will, but if I had to record it and watch it later I wouldn’t be too disappointed. For what I see as one of the pinnacles of rugby’s 4 year calendar that really depresses me.

        This tour has been so low on skill, ingenuity and so high on over inflated, egotistical hype, its making me yearn for it to be over.

        Can anyone recall a standout moment of sheer skill in this tour, a la Kearney’s unbelievable taking of a high ball and steaming through a gap in SA? The standout moment is North’s impression of a lumberjack…no skill, just power. Le sigh…

  13. For me, it’s not outrage that an Irish talisman has been dropped. We’re still the 2nd most represented nation after all. It feels like the best players for the final test haven’t been selected and being Welsh is more important than being on form.

    The single biggest error last week came from a lack of experience on the pitch – the bungled line-out. No BOD, no POC, no Warburton, in a cauldron of the highest level. It’s a callow bench, especially the backline. If things are going pear-shaped there’s no one I’d hugely trust to come on & steady the ship, or indeed change things much. There’s a lot of like for like subs on the bench.

    Also, Davies is much weaker defensively as is Manu so I’d expect to see a lot of traffic down the midfield channel. I’d say Chopper Lydiate will be pressed into service covering that

    I worry about the lack of fetchers on the team with a backrow of Lydiate, SOB & Falateau. BOD usually performs an extra flanker role. It’s also a task that Heaslip performs well when playing alongside SOB, usually getting precious little credit for it. It’s well and good having carriers, but what if they can’t get their hands on the ball?

    Gatland has picked a team that can best carry out tactics that have failed to beat Australia 8 times, 4 this year alone. It’s a hugely high risk strategy to think they can pull it off this time around. Still best of luck to all of them, especially Alun Wyn who really has been given a mammoth task. I’ll still be cheering them on.

    • Great points Kate, especially with regard to the balance of the backrow, which is something we didn’t touch on, but is well worth discussing. I feel as if each team is an over-reaction to what happened in the previous game. In the first test, they went to the front of the lineout all day, so in the next they went to the tail too often. They’d no ball carriers in that game, so now they’ve stuffed the team with ball carriers, but who’s going to do the breakdown work? Romain Poite is the referee this week, so the entire dynamic is going to be different and favours those who can win turnovers (Heaslip, BOD, and in particular the injured Warburton). It makes the non-selection of BOD all the more bizarre.

      Alun-Wyn Jones has arguably been the Lion of the series, so best of luck to him indeed. Some task.

  14. B

     /  July 3, 2013

    I’ve been a neutral leaning towards the aussies for much of this tour; I have no deep seated love for the Sky lions stuff and I prefer to root for the team which is trying to play better rugby which has been the aussies so far. Plus, Genia.

    I’ve felt that Gatland has been a poor selector since the start when he only brought two tens, its a semi miracle he has gotten to the final test with those two still in one piece (or two pieces I guess). Along with that his choices for the bench have been hugely perplexing and really just cannot be explained. Lydiate as back row cover. Croft as second row/back row utility. Cuthbert covering back three. Now Tuilagi and no back three cover when both wings have been injured during the tour.

    I think what this tour has really laid out clearly is that Gatland favours the bigger players whenever possible over all other attributes. I would have said he also favours accuracy and low risk/low mistake rugby but Davies inclusion negates this.

    I honestly think or hope that this could be the undoing of Wales in the next couple of six nations as the other nations and players will have seen behind the curtain and should have no real fear of the Welsh in next seasons six nations provided they have a solid set piece. I mean we already knew that this was a key component of Welsh rugby but I think a lot of us felt if Gatland had the flair players Wales/Lions could go up a level but if anything its the opposite.

  15. ORiordan

     /  July 3, 2013

    There seems to be a lot of rose-tinted glasses about gameplans.
    Anyone remember what the gameplan for the 97 Lions was? It seemed to come down to Neil Jenkins kicking the goals and Scott Gibbs boshing it up the middle.

    What it also had was a better performing set piece than 2013.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  July 3, 2013

      Problem is Gibbes was a world class player at what he did, Davies is not (at whatever it is he does(miss tackles and passes?)). Set piece is down to Meathead 1, Graham Rowentree selecting props not named Andrew Sheridan is favour of a coke head and a fat Islander.

  16. Neil38G

     /  July 3, 2013

    I’m on holiday in Mexico and decided to check the team out and it came through around 11pm for me and what a bloody shock, needed 2 beers to get to sleep. Philipps at 9 worries me, he’s been useless to say the least. If he wants BOD off (team now LEADERLESS) I would have liked to see Manu in there instead. I feel Davies will fold. It will be a 5am at reception for the decent internet for me, not as bothered as I was for some reason. Looking forward already for Ire v Wales next year.

  17. Leinsterlion

     /  July 3, 2013

    Had a rant typed and ready to go when Mozilla decided to crash. My anger has subsided somewhat, and I cant recreate it. In essence Gatland has gone the way of Woodward and Colonel Kurtz and gone mad with power and ego and is leading this expedition towards disaster. Bizarre initial selections in many cases(Stevens, Maka, Croft, Murray, every hooker not named Hartley and a horrendously out of form Farrell have not been justified in any way shape or form.
    His dropping of Drico for the woeful Davies(a man with Earlsesque passing abilities, and the same mediocre defense) and Heaslip for a man who (but for Powellys penchant for a pint and a Golf buggy) should be sitting on his arse in Newport. Imo, this reeks of man out of his depth returning to what he knows best.
    I have lost faith in the Lions, from the biased and jingoistic SKY coverage to the turgid uninspiring play against an injury ravaged rabble populated by midgets with a WINGER playing at 10, this has been a tour reminiscent of Woodwards little England jaunt of 05(with the sounds of Baa’ing sheep replacing the chorus of “swing low sweet chariot).
    Its time to call in Martin Sheen and send him downriver to Noosa to end this madness, Robert Duvall, Napalm and Heuys swooping in to “Ride of the Valkyies” are optional.

    • I thought you said you weren’t going to rant, Leinsterlion? 🙂 Please, please, please dig out the original, it must have been quite something.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  July 3, 2013

        Alas it is gone into the ether, lets say there was a copious amount of Vietnam/Apocalpyse Now references, fawning over BOD and obscure analogy’s linking Gattys gameplan to “Operation Linebacker”( a massive(and ineffective) US arial bombardment campaign, geddit?) and comparing the Aussies to the mobile and undersized Vietcong running rings around a bigger foe. T’was a thing of beauty, I even had Barry John make an appearance saying “the horror, the horror” upon viewing the inevitable Lions DVD that will fill many a stocking come christmas.

        • Cian

           /  July 3, 2013

          Surely there must have been at least an extra three gratuitous and irrelevant digs at Munster/Munster players as well, to round out your usual quota? I appreciate that losing one’s work and having to start over is dispiriting, but we have come to expect a certain standard (or more accurately a certain quantity) of such barbs as points of reference in your florid, verbosely vitriolic output.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  July 3, 2013

            I got in a dig at Earls passing and Murray in the pale copy I posted here, Heaslips demotion and losing the original knocked me for six, I just dont have the motivation to recreate it, and the lack of Munster players on tour also ate into my quota.
            Although, depending on how Wales+ a few others play this weekend, expect bubonic plague spread/Munster playing style comparisons. Tradition, heart, pashuun and kicking away possession not making up for a shortfall in talent. You can also expect Connor Murray passing/play comparisons with arthritis,rheumatism, cement, treacle, molasses Tar, sludge, pitch and numerous other substances/fluids with low viscosities come Monday.

      • osheaf01

         /  July 5, 2013

        Here’s the original version; Leinsterlion at his most rational…

  18. ORiordan

     /  July 3, 2013

    Both Willie John McBride *and* Martin McGuinness annoyed about BOD being dropped… all getting a bit hysterical from the Irish meeja.

    • abitofshoepie

       /  July 3, 2013

      Martin McG….? Maybe Gatland will back down now…

      • ORiordan

         /  July 3, 2013

        Yup, right now Gatty is getting a phone call from a Mr P ONeill with a codeword… Marty, of course, will deny all involvement. 😉

        • abitofshoepie

           /  July 3, 2013

          An Irishman with a codeword?…Gatty will probably ask him to help fix the line-out..

          • Don

             /  July 4, 2013

            *Applause*
            Bravo abitofshoepie, that was beautiful 🙂

  19. Conor O'F

     /  July 3, 2013

    Gatland and co. appear to have realised the error of their ways in their second test gameplan, and have (assuredly, lol) reverted to the original plan of multi-phase, boot and bollocks, gainline-breaking play.
    In beefing up the pack, the selectors have also reverted to their original vision of a dominant scrum, and will likely achieve parity at lineout.

    Hibbard’s selection is about adding bulk to the front row, and familiarity with the primary lineout jumpers of Falatau, Lydiate and Wyn Jones. One can only hope that he matches the workrate of Tom Youngs around the park.
    Corbisiero’s re-inclusion comes as both a no-brainer and a relief. The Lions will no doubt be hoping that M. Poitre rewards a dominant scrum with penalties within 0.5p’s kicking range.

    I’m disappointed, but frankly not surprised by BOD’s omission, or of Heaslip for that matter.

    Heaslip failed, or rather was failed, by the nature of the gameplan in the 2nd test, to show his full skillset, and the selection of a fresh Faletau injects a proven carrier into the team, albeit one with far less experience in Big Games, such as Saturday’s Test.
    This, for me, was a marginal call, and has possibly more to do with the selection of a Welsh spine (2, 5, 8, 9 and 12), than any obvious sleight on Heaslip. The “fine margins” ©Will Greenwood.

    For all of the talk prior to the tour of Ben Youngs being a foil to Mike Phillips style, I think the inclusion of Murray on the bench says an awful lot about how the Lions wish to play this weekend. Murray is much more of a like-for-like to Phillips than Young, and with question marks about the former’s ability to last the full 80, Murray’s selection indicates that the Lions have no desire to deviate from that gameplan. Bash it up, forwards around the corner and release for more of the same. Consequently, if the breakdown becomes a mess early on, then I’d expect to see Tipuric come in to clean it up (For who though is anyone’s guess)

    I’m mystified about the omission of O’Driscoll.

    There’s no doubt that Davies has talent. His familiarity with Dr. Roberts, his boshability and his left boot all add to the plus column. He was failed by his selection at 12 in the first two tests and could, in my opinion, be the very person to cross the whitewash this weekend, all going to plan. He has undoubtedly played well in the Tour to date and frankly does not deserve some of the criticism I’ve seen levelled at him today (not here btw). However, his questionable ability to read the attack, his inability to match the ground skills or frankly even the passing skills of O’Driscoll are what set him back in a shoot-out versus BOD.

    His selection negates BOD’s almost innate familiarity with Sexton. Their wraparound plays, that so often get outside defences to open gaps up for others in the outside channels are now completely nullified. Davies simply doesn’t have the skillset. I recall O’Driscoll’s pass to Zebo in this years 6N, ironically against the Welsh, which reaffirmed his ability with ball in hand. Davies wouldn’t fill me with confidence about his ability to take the tackle(s) and deliver as fine a pass. I also fear that Bowe and North won’t get a pass from him on Saturday. If this weeks’ gameplan is what I think it is, in boshing ad finitum and then going wide, then there are few to match the Prince of Centres in creating something from nothing, in confined spaces and under pressure. You only have to think of O’Driscoll’s range of tries, including a late save for a draw vs. Oztralia, or through a ruck against the Welsh, to appreciate his match-winning ability. His defence, and leadership abilities are taken as a given. Furthermore, who is going to stand at 2 in the 10 man lineouts?

    It is very sad to think that his legacy to the sport be undeservedly tarnished because of his omission on Saturday, regardless of the Series outcome.

  20. Michael

     /  July 3, 2013

    What really pisses me off is that it just looks to me that Gatland is looking out for no.1 at the minute. At the end of the day, he has to go back to Wales, and i cant help but feel that’s in his selection decisions. Graham Henry pissed so many of the Welsh players off when he was Lions coach that he basically did himself out of a job there. Gatland isn’t making the same mistake.

    He has picked 10 Welsh players. Given that he would likely pick Jenkins if fit, and Warburton that goes up to 12. His favorite son (Priestland) has been injured all year and its likely that Ian Evans and Alex Cuthbert get brought on at some stage. That’s everybody. Job done.

    It just leaves me with one question… Did Justin Tipuric shag his daughter and run his dog over making a getaway or something? Talk about unlucky…

  21. Mary Hinge

     /  July 3, 2013

    One or two interesting calls by Gatland for the decider on Saturday. I must admit I’m surprised he’s gone for Parling in the 2nd Row. I would have thought Ian Evans would have brought greater bulk to the pack for the game we’re trying to play. I must admit I’m also surprised he’s not gone for the like-for-like replacement of Tipuric for Warburton at 7 leaving SOB for what he’s best at, making an impact off the bench.

    Finally Tommy Bowe can feel a little lucky to hang onto the 14 shirt following his failure to make much of an impact last Saturday. Cuthbert did little wrong to justify him getting dropped in the first place, and I would have brought him back for Saturday.

    • SOB doing what he does best, coming off the bench? Hmmm, he’s pretty much a nailed on starter in every team he’s played in up to now. SOB the impact sub exists only in people’s imaginations.

      • Mary Hinge

         /  July 3, 2013

        Sigh WOC, and there was I thinking I had overdone rather than underdone the irony!

    • Will

       /  July 3, 2013

      Pity there’s no Welsh player to slot in at outhalf….

  22. Dave W

     /  July 3, 2013

    I think what rankles a lot is that if the Lions do triumph on Saturday, then we’re going to have to listen to Gatland lord it around for a while. Perhaps I’m thinking less of the Aussies than I should, but this tour has been here for the taking. If he selected properly in the first two tests, and didn’t play the ooompf-gameplan, this tour would be over, and the tests wouldn’t even have been that close. Australia have been poor, and it’s still 1-1 – because we’ve been equally poor.

    So if the Lions to win come Saturday, we’ll have won a series,and Gatland will be lauded as a master tactician for dropping BOD, and for his selections throughout, gameplan, etc. However, if we do, my personal feeling on it is we managed a win, in spite of Gatland, and not because of him.

    If we lose, I’ll be upset, but not half as upset as I would be if it wasn’t Gatland in charge though I really don’t understand why some people are supporting the Wallabies now. We still have three Irish on the team, and they’re still the Lions after all. I’d still be delighted with a tour win, but it’s spoiled a little now.

  23. On a slightly different note.

    It’s often said that the soccer teams that win the big competitions will set the tone and style for how the game will be played in the following seasons. Saturday’s game could conceivably have the same effect in rugby, for the NH at least – big boshers vs the sharper skills base of the convicts. As the father to a teenager making his way in the game in the Ulster setup it worries me. My boy has pace, great hands and a rugby brain. At 6′ 2” for a centre, not bad physique either, but his skill set is aimed at reading a game as it develops and making line breaks. He’s in the Ulster setup because they want to increase his beef.

    As his dad it is desperately difficult watching school boy games and seeing him taking the hits. Sometimes I feel that allowing him to play is almost a form of abuse. And there is no end in sight to the growth in power, pace and impact. I wonder what the limits are. What ‘in my day’ was a game for all physiques is rapidly seeing a door closed to the nippy, turn on a sixpence speedsters in favour of big impacts, as our game goes the way of American football. Look at our club setups. How many married men with families can afford to be out for days or weeks with impact injuries from Saturday’s game?

    If Gatland succeeds we set a template and though I will be happy to see the Lions win, it will be tempered by knowing this is the game my son is growing into.

    • Thanks for this, a REALLY interesting perspective. Something we need to talk about a lot more. I couldn’t get over how brutal the hits on the 2009 tour were, and when I heard the coaches say that the physicality has ramped up since then… well, I just shuddered.

      • I’m a rugby dad too and trainer of my son’s u14 team here in Madrid and although the standard of rugby here is way off standard in Ireland, I can fully understand crookedshore’s concerns. In the recent Madrid under14 finals day the 3rd/4th play off was won by a team who played a kid in the centre who up till that moment had played second row and has always been one of the biggest kids in Madrid. Seeing him bosh the ball up in the Roberts style was applauded by many but lamented by others. As a coach of kids it’s a bit difficult to motivate the little ones playing in the backs when they have to tackle a kid who literally doubles them in height and weight, apart from the obvious safety concerns.
        Last year’s u18 European finals here in Madrid were a real eye opener too. In the final the Irish lads looked big, Harrison Brewer stood out in the backs for size and ability, but the English lads were enormous and all had the look of body builders. Myself and quite a few of the other parents watching were shocked and having previously thought it would have been great if my son could have played top level rugby I am now pretty much against the idea if it means he has to look like the English 17 year olds that day. I actually wrote about the size of players in modern rugby in my blog but unfortunately you will have to be able to read Spanish if you want to read it!! The concern for parents of rugby kids is that as crookedshore points out, if gatlandball succeeds, it will become the blueprint for rugby, if it hasn’t already.

    • Abitofshoepie

       /  July 3, 2013

      Great post. When Spain won the football World Cup all of a sudden is was fashionable to have diminuitive but skilful players all over the park, rather than big physically dominant athletes. Hopefully someone can do the same for rugby. I’m an ulster fan, but always thought that Leinsters skill and swagger combined with success and all done with some smaller fellas would rub off on more coaches and teams than it has done. Maybe it will just take a bit of time to work through the system.

  24. I never thought I’d read an initial blog post, and then thousands of words, across dozens of comments just below, and then be able to say: “You are all correct, I agree with you all” Didn’t think that was possible, but evidently it is. Some terrific writing too, as always. Think we are all feeling much the same. Personally I’m lurching between numb despondency, (something akin to grief almost) and sheer rage. I know I mooted it earlier as a possibility, but I’ve been trying all day to absorb both the horror, the insult, and (in simple ruthless get-a-win, rugby terms) the utter, the manifest folly of dropping BO’D.

    We’ll get to the theoretical rugby case, the theoretical justification, for that in a moment, but apart from all that this is, imho, an unforgivable slight, on the best NH player of the last 15 years. With the possible exception of Martin Johnson nobody runs him close, and there are have been some other bloody good players now and over that time.

    As for the “purely rugby decision” Well, clearly, it sucks. We mentioned before -in the context of Vunipola, (his poor bind, poor scrummaging, and his match-loosing penalty potential) how Gatland appears not to look at video tape. Has he even glanced at Adam Ashley-Coopers try last Saturday?

    As the video link above amply demonstrates again, not only does the class of O’Driscoll cover his own man, he sometimes finds a way to point and to TELL Jonathan Davis to stay out and stay on his man. But Davis, mesmerized, like some drunken sheep, by a Wallaby sway of the hips, takes his eye off his man, looses focus, drifts in and leaves a hole the size of…. The size of test series loss, i suspect. Yes there are dozens of other factors in that loss, not least the scrum and lack of go-forward ball. All the more reason not to carry a defensive passager.

    The greatest player of his generation, “the extra flanker”, a natural leader and experienced high pressure big game player. Dropped for a tackle-missing donkey. Because the donkey has a few extra pounds of “bosh”. Leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

    We should no doubt try and get behind the LIons, partly and simply because they are the team that, like it or not, (and i know we do not today) represent our islands and our NH game. Partly even, perhaps, because as somebody above remarked, that what BO’D himself will now do.
    But God it ain’t easy.

  25. JT64

     /  July 3, 2013

    Crap tactics, crap performances, crap test selections = CRAP COACHES.

    For rugby’s sake, you’d almost want the Wallabies to win…..almost. It’s very sad I find myself saying these words, as my mates and I have been building this tour up for over a year- two separate round table meetings all the way up in Johnnie Foxes in December & April picking our 38 man squads, countless (inebriated) rows over test selection, rows over our bolters, rows over whether Richie Gray is any good or not….

    My point being, we had bought into the Lions ethos, and the magic that accompanies every tour. I’ll never forget four years ago when I was utterly speechless for most of the Saturday after that 2nd test having witnessed to this day the best game of rugby I have ever seen, and having witnessed Simon Shaw’s Herculean efforts. BOD’s huge hit on Danie Roussow. Adam Jones’ succumbing to a most painful dislocated shoulder in the name of the cause. Vickery coming on and making amends for his mauling by the Beast. The stuff of legends. Even with a scratch team, we went out and battered them in the 3rd test, restored pride.

    That magic is not to be found on this tour. I don’t know what it is- whether it’s been the utter dross served up in the previous two years 6N setting the tone, the lack of bolters in initial squad (and Matt Stevens), the lack of decent quality warm up games for the Lions, or the incessant hype on Sky Sports….for whatever reason, this tour has not captured me in the same way as four years ago. No magic.

    I thought that might change when we got to the tests…but sadly not. I think there’s been enough said in previous posts from the WOC boys and people far more knowledgeable about rugby than I am about the gameplan, and awful quality that’s been served up. The real kicker is obviously BOD’s omission. I am admittedly probably very biased, but the fact that the most subtle, clever, skilful and creative back we still have in the British & Irish Isles is omitted in favour of blunt, unsubtle, caveman tactics sends out the wrong message.

    Saturday should be the most eagerly anticipated game in a long time, you couldn’t ask for a more delicately poised finale. But the event leading up to this have diluted my enthusiasm, and I don’t seem to care as much about the result.

    And that makes me sad.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  July 3, 2013

      Spot on, its all down to the coaching setup. We get an egoistic ITM cup coach(wasnt trusted with a S15 job) in Gatland as HC, he drafts in noted MENSA members in Farrell Sr Ph.D and Graham Rowentree Ph.D to complete the triumvirate of noted purveyors of intelligent and attacking heads up rugby, where could it all go wrong?
      I dont know why I didnt see this coming. SKY sports hype hath blinded me, even when the initial squad selection utterly disappointed me (boring Halfpenny over Lee Byrne) and stands out as the direction Gatty was heading(win on points)

  26. This whole blog and the responses, (Buckfast, O’Riordan and moreinhope aside) is just one long over emotional whinge.

    O’Driscoll hasn’t been pulling up any trees, he doesn’t fit the game-plan (like it or loathe it) and has lost his place. It’s a fairly common occurrence in all sports. He has dealt with his exclusion with dignity that highlights the class of the man.

    Unfortunately some of the cyber warriors here and elsewhere have not. I have a particular issue with the following constructs:

    1. Gatland is biased to Welsh Players.
    This bile is extremely disingenuous to the honesty and integrity of the man, questioning his professionalism. It is also not correct.
    – he dropped Cuthbert for Bowe; selected Heaslip over Faletau; left Hook and Biggar at home, dropped Mike Philips; hasn’t selected Tipuric until this weekend; has ignored Ian Evans who was the standout lock in the 6nations; called up the useless Court ahead of Paul James; selected Tom Croft ahead of Lydiate…etc
    – More Welsh players were picked because we won the 6 Nations – two years on the trot – dropping just the 1 game in 10.
    – Ireland are in fact very well represented on the tour and in the tests given that they lost to Italy in the recent 6Nations finishing 5th and have won just 3 out of the last 10 6Nations games.

    2. Picking 10 Welsh guys destroys the ethos of the Lions team
    – It is not a quota system it never has been. Most Lions teams have been dominated by the successful 6Nations champions of the time augmented by the cream of the other teams.
    – Once on tour it is one squad one team.
    – No-one has been bemoaning the lack of Scottish players over the last 3 tours.
    – No-one in Ireland was bemoaning the selection of 15 Irish guys for the 2009 tour.

    3. Gatland’s approach is dull, boring, turgid etc -really?
    – It’s about wining. It’s never been about artistic merit – as all the Munster fans out there will attest to. Yes it’s great to see beautiful rugby but that is a bonus. The Lions have won just 4 series in the modern era and I can think of only two Lions tours (’71 especially and to a lesser extent ’74) where the style was easy on the eye.

    4. I’m supporting the Aussies/I want the ‘Welsh’s Lions’ to fail brigade
    – This just highlights the sad, bitter, small minded morons out there.

    • JT64

       /  July 3, 2013

      People are entitled to their opinions.

    • ORiordan

       /  July 3, 2013

      If BOD gets dropped from the Ireland team for Keith Earls or Darren Cave, the hospitals around Dublin will need to go on suicide watch judging by some of the reactions.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  July 3, 2013

        If BOD gets dropped for either of those two, the miracle workers in the donkey sanctuary deserve a round of applause for the wonderful job they did.

    • toro toro

       /  July 3, 2013

      Troll eats straw men. Film at eleven.

    • Cian

       /  July 4, 2013

      Interesting series of responses, mostly to points that were never made in this blog or in the comments.

      1. Fair enough, I agree with you here – I honestly don’t think he’s biased towards the Welsh or trying to save his job, more that he’s falling back on what he knows. This may be a problem in and of itself, but it’s not the same as an inherent pro-Welsh bias.

      2. Very few people are saying that 10 Welsh players destroys the ethos of the Lions, because that’s idiotic. Some are saying that this particular selection damages the ethos, because safety-first trusted combination selections preferred to the most talented, exciting players is a bit depressing.

      3. Munster won a lot with a one-dimensional game plan. So did England. So have Wales recently (one-dimensional to a lesser extent). There would be far fewer complaints about Gatland’s boring style with the Lions if an awful lot of people didn’t think that they would have been more successful with some more enterprising play. In fact, I think it is very reasonable to suggest that a bit of attacking rugby and less hoofing the ball away would have increased the chances of winning the second test.

      4. People are perfectly entitled to support the Aussies. It probably means they either weren’t big Lions fans in the first place (which is, believe it or not, not a hanging offence) and like the cut of the Wobblies jib, or are reacting rather violently to BOD’s omission. The latter might not be entirely correct, but it is surely understandable and to pretend otherwise is just disingenuous.

      For me, I’m sickened by BOD being left out because I don’t think his replacement is up to scratch (JD is fantastically talented in some aspects of his game but limited in others, and had an absolute stinker in defence last Saturday) and because I thought the Lions was about earning your place in the team through your performances through your career and on tour, not just about being a certain type of player.

    • Will

       /  July 4, 2013

      1. Gatland has his favourites/players he trusts. They just happen to be Welsh as he’s the Welsh coach. He had his blind favourites when he was Ireland coach too.
      2. The Lions should be the best 15 players, if they’re all or mostly from one country that’s fine. This 15/23 are not the best.
      3. Gatland’s approach is stupid. His game plan hasn’t worked against the Aussies.
      4. Everyone will still support the Lions. They are just (justifiably) angry.

      2nd test –
      BOD 12 tackles 0 missed tackles
      JD 7 tackles 3 missed tackles
      JD is a very good player but he is no BOD. I actually feel sorry for him in all of this. He should be on the bench.

  27. Michael

     /  July 3, 2013

    Predictably, Hitler takes it badly too….

  28. Yossarian

     /  July 3, 2013

    I often feel northern hemisphere rugby is really looked down on by the Tri-nation sides. Its a pity that the show piece team from the northern hemisphere would go down and play such abysmal rugby. all their slagging seems justified! the best of 4 can’t beat 1 etc. kick,bash,set piece, no skill on display. NZ dominate everyone but felt there was an opportunity to beat the aussies this time around. won’t have much interest in watching what happens in 4 years time in NZ.(unless joe schmidt gets the call after a succesful stint with Ireland and takes the job as he departs so we aren’t subject to what we have witnessed from Gatland)

  29. All us Irish supporters (and plenty others too) are gutted for BOD. But the pro game has no place for sentiment, particularly when the brand or franchise needs a win. Perhaps we have also unwittingly bought into the hype of Lions legend. There may have been a time in Lions history when romance could woo the pragmatists and overwhelm the need to win, but if ever we needed evidence that those days are gone, this is it. In another time, injury aside, a great player could chose the manner of his leaving, sadly not now, when wins secure the brand.

    And the reality is that the vast bulk of the lions supporters on the tour are from those bygone days – they are at a stage of life when finances and time permit – and maybe what we are mourning is not just the closing days of a great career, but also the passing of an era.

    As Yeats might have said, ‘Romantic rugby is dead and gone. It’s with the 74 Lions in the grave.’

    • moreinhope

       /  July 3, 2013

      ‘wins secure the brand’……ughh

  30. Rich

     /  July 3, 2013

    The only players tha Aussies feared were BOD, SOB and North. They know they can beat the rest of them. The great Dan Carter tweeted yesterday that BOD should have been captain so any ideas Gats had for the ABs job have clearly gone. We have lost a lot of followers on this tour, gumtree Sydney is full of Brits flogging tickets, its a trek to get to ANZ, coupled with knowing you ll watch a game plan you hate being executed by players you don t rate coached by Gatland? Uninspiring at best

    Did anyone else not Gats ensured the world were aware that BOD had not been dropped in 15 years and he was the man to do it. To take glory in this decision shows how much of an ego he clearly is – almost gloating in the fact that he has got one over on bod. The great man should have left the field on Saturday night on the shoulders of his team mates, his great career going down in lions legend, instead he will slip out the backdoor. Sad sad end – the lions yes men have shown as long as they get their VIP tickets they are nt bothered who plays – “legend” Andy Irvine noted I Tuesday BOD was one of the greatest – why was he not banging the table to have him involved??? Awful coaches on an awful tour. Might as well be the baa baa’s at least they spin it!

  31. Too much BOD in these replies. As Whiff points out, It’s All About Gatty, poor old BOD is the weeping foreigner in the background of the Sky News news report.

    So in that vein, here are a few musings on Warren:

    (1) The Lucky Coach myth.

    He’s not a “lucky coach” as George Hook has suggested, but like the proverbial clock, maybe George was right when saying he has a talent for employing talent (Edwards, Howley, O’Sullivan). This is hardly something to criticise a man for, Deccie and Woodward made successful careers out if it. And the buck still stops with the head man.

    I have half a suspicion, though, that his selection of (cough) uninspiring (cough) lieutenants might, perhaps not deliberately, have been to show that “look, ma”, he could do it on his own. He can do stuff no-one else does, like drop BOD. All Hail the Cult of the Coach.

    After all, Andy Farrell, really?

    (2) The Crap Coach Fallacy and the Great Welsh Coach That Wasn’t.

    He’s not a “crap coach”. I think the true measure of Alex Ferguson’s worth isn’t his success at Manchester United, but that he did it at Aberdeen first. Ditto Deccie, the Special One, and Crazy Bernie Laporte (just kidding).

    Gatland has been repeatedly, and increasingly, successful:
    Connacht beat Northampton home and away in the Challenge Cup (Northampton came second in the next year’s premiership, and won the HEC the year after that).
    While his Irish stewardship had as many lows (Lens) as highs (2001 Grand Slam spoilers), Gatty raised an unmitigated disaster of a team to the point where they could beat England and threaten the All Blacks, while introducing most of the “Legends” who formed the backbone of the side through O’Sullivan’s era and indeed into Kidney’s.
    3 years at Wasps: 3 Premiership titles, a HEC, a Challenge Cup, and an Anglo-Welsh Cup. Maybe it’s not quite Joe-Schmidt, but it’s bloody close.
    Following a short but successful sojourn in New Zealand it was on to continuous glory with Wales….

    Except it wasn’t. 2008 was one hell of a start. But not to be mealmouthed about it, what have Wales had to beat in the 6 nations these last few years?

    Ireland, notwithstanding a decidedly lucky Grand Slam in 2009, probably peaked around 2006/early 2007. England are only now emerging from an 8 year slide from World Champions to Small Person Chuckers. Scotland and Italy are basket cases. France are onto their third Forrest Gump coach in a row (and dear God but Stupid Is As Stupid Does). Compared to, say, their 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam achievements, 2012 and 2013 are pretty small beer.

    Then we look at Wales’ record against the southern hemisphere teams. We all know they’ve lost to Australia 8 times in a row, so let’s just say their recent record is even worse than Ireland’s and leave it at that.

    Lastly, let’s examine Wales’ successful 2011 World Cup, where they beat… Ireland. And lost to South Africa. And France. And Australia. So really, their World Cup wasn’t hugely more impressive than Ireland’s underwhelming effort.

    In summary, and admitting that hindsight’s great, Gatland seems to have peaked as a coach about the same time as Declan Kidney. And I don’t think the most one-eyed Munster fan reckons he should have taken charge of the Lions’ tour.

    (3) Why he should never have been appointed.

    In picking every Welsh player with two working legs, and several with just the one, Gatland is probably not securing his day job or displaying bias (though the team announcement could have made you think that Gatland and one or more of Irvine, BOD, and the assistant coaches have had the mother of all fallings out) towards Wales, but rather reverting to type/what he knows, when under pressure. Of course in addition to not putting out the best team available, he might as well have announced the team while cuddling his teddy bear and security blanket, and don’t think the Aussies can’t smell the fear. But that’s not my point here.

    The problem with Gatland as coach – and Henry in times past, and Joe Schmidt in 4 years, perhaps – is that the Lions coaching job is not their dream ticket, as it was for McGeechan, or even a World Cup winner (and disastrous Lions coach) like Woodward.

    It’s just a means to an end, a stepping stone along the way to the real goal, coaching the All Blacks. The Lions can’t continue to employ coaches who – simply by virtue of nationality and culture, not through any fault or failing of themselves – do not regard the Lions with the same reverence as do the players.

    (4) Here’s hoping for a win or a quick death.

    The Lions idea may be doomed anyway, but if they lose on Saturday death may be very close at hand. Going to NZ in 4 years off 4 losing tours (and let’s face it, if this lot of Lions were in NZ this year I’d have fancied 3-0 in the series and every chance of the Maoris, Crusaders, Chiefs, and Uncle Tom Cobley inflicting a losing TOUR) is something even Sky will struggle to big up. The mighty Lions recast as plucky Connacht or Blackpool, maybe?

    A win would give breathing space, and nobody really wants the Lions to go the ways of the Railway Cup, the Charity Shield, the Barbarians – extinction, or, worse, joke status – so I think all Irish rugby fans will get over the frankly batshit selections (and themselves) and cheer on the Lions.

    Of course, if the Lions are going to take a beating, please let it be by thirty points, so the concept dies a quick death, and Gatty doesn’t escape blame.

    I certainly don’t think I could bear to hear Sky and Gatland bleat about how the series decider was only lost by 4 points, and how different it all could have been if they’d had Captain Fantastic and Ref Whisperer Extraordinaire (thanks to whomever came up with that one) Sam Warburton in harness. Small margins, you know.

    • Rich

       /  July 3, 2013

      BOD is our greatest ever player and you expect fans not to talk about it? Whilst you try and convince us that Gatland is a quality coach!?? Are you serious? And a lucky grand slam in 2009 – yet you talk about small margins winning games? Load of nonsense from start to finish. Get the Connacht out of your username as well – a Connacht man would never write such drivel

      • In order:

        Of course people will talk about it, but that wasn’t the central point of the original post;
        WAS a quality coach;
        yes;
        one of the luckiest, though all grand slams are lucky to some extent;
        it’s called a joke (at Sky’s expense in case you were wondering);
        quite possibly;
        and too late.

        Did I miss anything?

  32. don_cherrys_conscience

     /  July 4, 2013

    People buy into #seaofred because it is different. Supposedly, those selected to play (and coach) will come together and sacrifice for a cause higher than club, higher than country.

    Instead, the “ethos” has devolved into the key decision-maker playing it safe to further his career interests. This is nothing different than what happens in corporate offices around the world on a regular basis.

    Win or lose this weekend, more than a little of the Lions mystique has been lost.

    • Succinctly put. And to borrow your own phrasing, more than a little sad.

    • For me, the only surprise is that so many people still buy into that “Lions mystique”. It has been a wonderful exercise in marketing by the sponsors. Anyone know how many PR men work with the Lions and what agencies?

      Despite my complete Lions apathy, I do feel sorry for BOD because he really sincerely does actually seem to buy into the Lions stuff too and it seemed to represent a pinnacle for him (much to my chagrin as an Ireland and Leinster fan). Hopefully, it gives him one more game with Leinster and renewed motivation.

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