Australia v British & Irish Lions, 3rd Test, Sydney, July 6
McGeechan questions O'Driscoll omission
ESPN Staff
July 5, 2013
Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland and head coach Ian McGeechan cast an eye over training, Bishops School, Cape Town, South Africa, June 22, 2009
Warren Gatland and Sir Ian McGeechan worked alongside each other at London Wasps and during the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa © Getty Images

Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan fears that current coach Warren Gatland may have made a mistake by axing veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll for the series-deciding clash with Australia in Sydney on Saturday night.

Gatland shocked the rugby world by dropping O'Driscoll for the pivotal ANZ Stadium showdown with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies set to form an all-Welsh midfield. There is not even a place on the bench for O'Driscoll, with the captaincy honour that appeared destined for the Irishman passing to lock Alun Wyn Jones.

McGeechan has stopped short of criticising Gatland, a long-term friend with whom he worked closely at London Wasps and on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, but he has revealed he would have opted for the pairing that served his side so well four years ago.

"I would have paired Brian O'Driscoll with Jamie Roberts for the third Test in Sydney. For me, they are the best centre partnership in world rugby," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph. "They showed that in the two Tests they played in South Africa four years ago, before both were injured."

"This would have been a chance to see them in action again in Test match rugby. They enjoy each other's company, on and off the field, and had an understanding about each other that came out in their play."

He added: "Warren will have seen something in the play of Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts that he wants to get out there on the field. You have to respect that. Brian offers so much, though. For me, he has redefined the role of the modern centre.

"He has produced things on the field that we have never seen before from a centre. His ability to contest for ball out wide is just one of many skills that he mastered, becoming an extra back-row forward.

"Brian has great hands, wonderful vision and was able to spot lines of running and little passes off the shoulder that many would miss. For many years, he has produced the complete game at centre, and been an example as to what all young centres should aspire to. He is also a great leader. I worry that the Lions will miss that sort of influence."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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