Brian O'Driscoll admits pain of being left out of the British and Irish Lions to watch winning test
A still wounded Brian O'Driscoll has admitted that the 2-1 series win for the Lions against Australia was tainted by his being dropped for the first time in his professional career by Warren Gatland ahead of the final Test in Sydney.
And, while restricting himself to positive soundbites as the Lions continue to celebrate their first series win since 1997, the four-time tourist hinted that he may take some time before revealing the depth of his feelings on the issue.
"Not having an involvement in the final day does taint it a little bit," said the former Ireland captain.
"The final whistle was bittersweet. You do not feel as much a part of it if you have not played. That's just how it is. It was a massive mix of emotions: delight at being part of this historic moment alongside guys you have battled with, but tempered by not playing. It was hard and I would be lying if I said otherwise.
"You are desperately envious of those who are out there but there is not a sliver of ambiguity about wanting to see the boys win. That is non-negotiable: 100pc you want the team to go well.
"It's still a series win. I played 80 minutes in the first two Tests, and I did have a big say in what happened as well. It's nice to be able to say I've been on four tours and I've managed to win one finally. I haven't really gone and analysed it all and thought about how painful this has been. I'll probably think about it a little bit more over the next few weeks when I have a bit of time on my hands."
O'Driscoll was removed from the match-day squad as Gatland preferred a midfield combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, a decision which caused an astonishing level of vitriolic abuse to be directed towards the former Ireland coach last week. "I was fairly conscious of it, got a few texts, but a lot of tweets," O'Driscoll said of the support he received from the public.
"You hear it through a few people, talking to a few guys back home, that made it a little bit easier because I wasn't the only one that felt I should have been in the team."
However, O'Driscoll, who undertook an unscheduled half-hour session with local schoolchildren just hours after being omitted from the Test team, was conscious of preserving the unique ethos of the Lions.
"I've seen how certain people reacted over the course of time to disappointment. And you know there's a correct way, and an incorrect way, of doing that," said O'Driscoll.
"I wanted to make sure that I reacted in the best possible manner, to help the team out as much as I could.
"Having seen other players react in the past to being dropped has given me an insight into how to respond and behave properly. I have seen guys who are dead men walking on tours when they have not been selected and you cannot be that person.
"Credit to the squad players who have had to do this sort of thing before me, put on the defence bib at training and really mean it out there. I have said all along on this tour that the contributions of everyone will make or break it.
"That was true and remains true. Suddenly I was that person. You cannot say things one week and then behave differently. I hope I did my bit last week.
"The main thing is we won the tour. One man's disappointment counts for nothing when there is a squad full of guys who are very, very happy to have won themselves a Lions series."