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Gatland defends decision to drop O'Driscoll

O'Driscoll and Tuilagi partnership

Jul 04, 2013

Warren Gatland says the decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll from Saturday's third test against the Wallabies was not "based on trying to avoid any criticism or [gain] public popularity" and the he used his "head not his heart".

"When I go back to the UK and say 'Did I make the decision because I believed it was right, or did I make it because it was the right political decision?', I can put my hand on my heart and say I think it is the right rugby decision," Gatland said.

"It is only hard because you are making the decision by using your head and not your heart," added Gatland.

"Then you realise what comes of making a decision like that is all the periphery stuff, not the rugby decision, because it becomes a major story for 48 hours and a big debate.

"That is the process I have gone through.

"But I would hate to think we made calls based on trying to avoid any criticism or [gain] public popularity."

"He is not finished yet," said Gatland. "He has been a big part of this tour.

"He played in the first two Tests, and he is obviously very disappointed as any player would be.

"Like everything, it is a learning process. It is quite hard when you have been number one in your position for 15 years and have been first choice in every team you have been part of.

"There are a lot of people who have experienced the disappointment of Brian always being selected ahead of them. It is just part of sport, isn't it?

"We have made a really tough decision, and that is part of it too.

"Brian has been around a long time. He understands how things work. He is a professional and he appreciated we had the conversation. We don't always speak to everyone [before announcing the team] but he was one that definitely needed the respect of being spoken to."

Jonathan Davies has been selected to switch from inside centre, with the return of recently recovered Jamie Roberts, to the number 13 worn by O'Driscoll in eight of the Lions last eleven tests.

"I wouldn't say there is pressure [on me]," said the 25-year-old.

"I am just grateful for the opportunity to play in such a big game."

"There is a lot of pressure on everyone. Everyone has to deliver. We are in the last chance saloon, and we have got to win it" he added.

"I get to play [outside centre] where I have played a lot of my rugby over the last couple of years, so it is an exciting prospect."

"A lot of this squad are fortunate that they have played in big games before and we can draw on that and use it positively," added Davies.

"We just have to make sure we don't fear it. We have to embrace it and go out there to do the job."

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