British & Irish Lions
Gatland: BOD decision biggest of my career
July 10, 2013
Warren Gatland has spoken of his 'biggest call' © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes that the decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll for the third Test against Australia was the biggest call of his career.
Gatland received widespread criticism for his decision to leave O'Driscoll out of his matchday squad for the series-deciding test in Sydney, admitting that the "vitriolic" abuse he was subjected to in the immediate aftermath of that announcement ultimately made it difficult for him to enjoy the eventual, and emphatic, 41-16 victory - a triumph that should have vindicated his choice.
Giving some insight into his thought process, the New Zealander said he would have regretted not having the confidence to drop O'Driscoll, had the Irishman played and the Lions gone on to lose the series decider.
However, the Wales coach admitted that, the way the Lions ultimately ended up playing in the third Test, they probably would still have won comfortably with O'Driscoll at centre.
"I felt it was (the biggest call of my career)," Gatland told ONE News. "We were making what was the best decision in winning the Test series, and I wasn't going to leave Australia having any regrets.
"If we'd picked Brian, the way we played we probably still would have won the game, but if we lost there was only one person who would be criticised - that finger would be solely pointed at me."
Gatland also faced criticism for his general selection policy, with 10 Welshmen making the final XV for Sydney - including two, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, whose presence necessitated O'Driscoll's ousting.
Amid accusations of favouritism towards those he has coached for a number of years at international level, the coach was delighted to see so many of them step up and deliver for him.
He said: "I know the Welsh boys didn't say anything ... but they knew the pressure I was under ... and I know they fronted."
The coach says he tried to foster a spirit within the squad that saw beyond individual nationalities - believing being more together than the Australian setup was key to getting the series triumph.
"We felt there was no unity in Australian rugby between Super Rugby franchises," Gatland noted. "Between the Australian Rugby Union, between media, and between the public, everything there seemed so divided."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.