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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
INPHO/Dan Sheridan General view of the Lions team huddle.
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O'Driscoll axing a masterstroke, says Gibbs
The Welshman reckons Warren Gatland made the right call on BOD.

FORMER BRITISH AND Irish Lions centre Scott Gibbs said coach Warren Gatland was right to axe veteran Brian O’Driscoll for the third Test.

Gatland has made six changes to the starting side that failed to close out the series in Melbourne, and Gibbs believes the ‘brutal’ selection policy will pay dividends in Sydney on Saturday.

O’Driscoll’s shock omission has dominated the headlines and divided opinion but Gibbs believes the coach has got his selection for the ANZ Stadium showdown spot on.

“It’s disappointing for Brian, his last outing as a Lion was disappointing in that second Test but no room for sentiment,” Gibbs said. “They are positive reinforcements by Gatland, lots of firepower and more horse power brought to this side and it’s the last swing of the bat isn’t it.”

Prop Alex Corbisiero, hooker Richard Hibbard, flanker Sean O’Brien and number eight Toby Faletau have all been drafted into the Lions’ pack. Gibbs believes the new faces will provide the muscle that was lacking in Melbourne.

“I felt I was cheated out of a Test match on Saturday in Melbourne. We didn’t bring any heat or physicality to the game and that’s the hallmark of Warren Gatland’s coaching,” Gibbs lamented. “He knows they didn’t perform and I think he’s been brutal in selection and with those guys coming in as positive reinforcements.

“We’re going to see some movement, we’re going to see a lot of big runners in those midfield channels trying to put Australia under pressure and that’s something they haven’t done since the first half of the first Test match. “This is a smart selection. These guys have been given the chance to rescue this series and I’m going Lions to win by three.”

Gibbs said his fellow Welshman Jamie Roberts holds the key for the Lions. Roberts injured his hamstring three weeks ago against the Waratahs but returns at inside-centre, forcing Jonathan Davies to outside-centre at O’Driscoll’s expense.

“He came on this tour with a big reputation on the back of 2009… he’s a point man in the midfield, he is aware of his job on Saturday and expect him to run in that (James) O’Connor channel at 10-12,” he said.

“We need him to cross gain lines. When we cross gain lines the Lions are more effective. We need to start tight and then we can put the width on and start targeting that 15m channel. You can’t do it in the reverse, it’s very difficult to play a wide, unstructured game and then bring it in tight when the game calls for it.”

Gibbs added when asked to identify the key men for the Wallabies: “I think this weekend O’Connor is key. We’re still unsure about O’Connor as a number 10, can he launch that exciting backline into the game and keep them in the game? “We saw one moment of brilliance last week, at Test level that’s not enough.

“I think by his own admission and Kurtley Beale they probably had their worst Test outings as a Wallaby so expect them to bounce back. I think what’s key for the British and Irish Lions is they dominate that collision.”

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