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Brian O’Driscoll Takes Aim At Warren Gatland For The ‘Geography Six’ Fiasco

O'Driscoll Gatland Lions

Former Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll has described the current situation as a “mess” amid growing criticism of Warren Gatland’s treatment of the so-called “Geography Six.”

The Lions coach had initially been accused of devaluing the Lions shirt when selecting Kristian Dacey, Alan Dell, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Tom Francis, and Finn Russell to the squad primarily due to the fact that they were close by with their respective nations anyway.

He came under even more fire after Tuesday’s 31-31 draw against the Hurricanes by admitting that he had been reluctant to select the six (despite picking them as replacements f0r that game) due to public reaction, and as a result, many players were left on the pitch for the full 80 minutes despite clearly fatigued.

Rotorua , New Zealand - 17 June 2017; British and Irish Lions players, from left, Tomas Francis, Kristian Dacey, Liam Williams, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill prior to the match between the Maori All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Rotorua International Stadium in Rotorua, New Zealand. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Speaking to Newstalk’s Off the Ball on Tuesday night, O’Driscoll hammered Gatland’s decision making in that game, essentially accusing him of wavering in his convictions and failing to protect the 23 like he had set out to do:

“Yeah it absolutely is [a mess]. I think Warren Gatland has made a mistake there personally because he’s not staying strong with his convictions.

“He brings those guys out and he talks about protecting the 23, there’s a chance that he hasn’t protected the 23. Someone like Iain Henderson could easily feature this week. Yet he hasn’t been protected because he had to go and play the full 80 minutes, granted he did spend 10 minutes in the sin bin.

“He’s gone and played a full game on Tuesday. Say he’s on the bench [for the second Test match] and there’s an injury in the first minute or two, he plays 78 minutes. That’s 70 minutes on a Tuesday and then 78 minutes on a Saturday and he’s talking about protecting Test players.

“I don’t see how that’s good business at all.”

British and Irish Lions' Iain Henderson (C) beats a tackle from Wellington Hurricanes' Brad Shields (bottom) during the rugby match between the British and Irish Lions and the Wellington Hurricanes in Wellington on June 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

The former Leinster and Ireland centre stated that he had expected any call-ups to be of a higher standard the players that were eventually added the tour, before admitting that he wasn’t even sure who one or two of them were prior to their inclusion:

“I wasn’t anticipating the quality of those players being brought in being to the standard that they were. I wasn’t even aware who Cory Hill was, to be honest with you. I’m a pundit and I’m meant to know these things.

“Guys like him, how does he feel? Is he able to go away and say that he’s been a Lion? I’m sure he’s probably been embarrassed by it. It’s a terrible situation to find yourself in as a player.”

Wellington , New Zealand - 27 June 2017; British and Irish Lions substitutes, from left, Allan Dell, Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davies, Cory Hill watch on during the match between Hurricanes and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

In a further blow to the current setup, O’Driscoll relaid information that he has heard from the camp itself, namely that the six don’t feel like part of the group at all. With no more midweek games on the tour, they are now surplus to requirements, and O’Driscoll feels the whole late call-up endeavour has been a disaster for everyone involved:

“From what I’ve heard, those players that have been involved feel no part of it whatsoever. He’s done a disservice to them as well because they feel that they’re unused cannon fodder. I think they’re just waiting to head home. I think they head home Thursday. I don’t think that worked.”

Gatland and the Lions will need to pull out all the stops to rescue the series in this weekend’s second Test against the All Blacks. Lose that, and the possibility of another dispiriting whitewash will become all too real.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.