Fit again Jamie Roberts vows to seize his big chance
Jamie Roberts reflected on his "huge position of responsibility" after his return to fitness resulted in Brian O'Driscoll being dropped for the British and Irish Lions' series decider against Australia.
The shock omission of O'Driscoll from the 23 for the third and final Test at ANZ Stadium on Saturday is a controversial decision by head coach Warren Gatland, who has selected 10 Welshmen in his starting XV.
Having recovered from the hamstring strain that forced him to miss the first two matches against the Wallabies, Roberts has been chosen at inside centre where he will renew his Wales midfield partnership with Jonathan Davies.
While O'Driscoll's form has been unimpressive, the loss of skipper Sam Warburton to a torn hamstring pointed to Ireland's decorated 2005 Lions captain leading the team in Sydney.
But Alun-Wyn Jones has been given that honour with O'Driscoll – the squad's most senior player – ruthlessly omitted altogether.
The call will see critics queue up to savage Gatland, the Wales head coach, should the Lions lose to Australia in the climax to an epic series and Roberts understands that he must justify his coach's faith.
"It was probably the most nerve-wracking team selection I've ever had in my career. There were a lot of tight calls and none more so than Brian's," Roberts said.
"To show you what sort of guy he is, he was the first to come up to me at the end of training and ask if I wanted to do any extras. He's one of the greatest players to have played the game.
"I now have a huge position of responsibility on Saturday and I have to thrive on that and deliver. That's my job. Of course you owe it to the coach to show his selection was right – and you owe it to your fellow players as well. I owe it to guys like Brian as well."
Factor in O'Driscoll's big-game temperament, leadership and determination to mark his fourth and final Lions tour with a first series triumph and he appeared an automatic selection for a match of such magnitude.
"Surprise (at Gatland's decision) is not the right word. Warren has made some big calls and ultimately you respect the coach's decision," Roberts said.
"He's picked a team that he believes can win on Saturday, whether that includes Brian O'Driscoll or not.
"Brian's an incredible player and an asset to the squad who has played some wonderful rugby on this tour.
"But the coach has made the decision and he's picked the players he feels can deliver on Saturday.
"A lot of very, very good players have missed out on selection for Saturday."