Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

The iconic BOD is best man to lead Lions tour

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Chris Robshaw catches the ball during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on February 21, 2013 in Bagshot, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: Chris Robshaw catches the ball during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on February 21, 2013 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

There were the hair care years — with which I had absolutely no problem — but that apart I cannot think of one other way in which Brian O’Driscoll has stepped out of line, so to speak, in an exemplary career. He has been the consummate performer, not only on the field but off it too.

 

I wish he had been left to see out his days, most probably this season, as captain. The decision to pass on the armband hurt more than those beyond his immediate family and closest friends will know.

Of course, how could anyone assume anything different, given the graciousness and support he has since offered in word and deed to his successor, Jamie Heaslip?

I supported the move, in O’Driscoll’s interest. I was wrong and I suspect, despite public utterings to the contrary, if Declan Kidney could turn back the clock he might have handled it differently.

But where to now for this iconic Irish sporting ambassador, who is right up there with Ronnie Delany, Eamonn Coghlan, Sonia O’Sullivan, Henry Shefflin and Katie Taylor as a role model.

My earnest wish is to see this living legend bow out on his terms.

If that means Saturday’s draw with France was his last at Lansdowne Road in an Ireland shirt, then what a way to go… bloodied but unbowed.

In the meantime, with just one series of games to go, selection for the Lions squad to tour Australia is looming.

Right from the off, O’Driscoll has contended that form in the Six Nations alone should dictate whether he travels. Well, if his name isn’t already set in stone on that criterion, I give up.

The 2005 captain has unfinished business and deserves the chance to lead a Lions tour to series success and add the crowning glory to a great career.

In a strange sort of way, losing the Irish captaincy has enhanced his case for Lions leadership now. It would not be a sentimental appointment, but a very pragmatic decision were Lions coach Warren Gatland to go that route.

As things stand, it looks like one from O’Driscoll, Chris Robshaw and Sam Warburton, with much set to be made of the head-to-head between these two openside flankers in Cardiff on Saturday.

O’Driscoll is the man to lead the 2013 Lions, not because he is at the end of a great career but because he is the right man — not least because he is the closest of the three obvious candidates to a Test-place certainty.

Were the Irish icon to be given that honour I doubt there would be a dissenting voice anywhere.

For Gatland and team manager Andy Irvine, having the public and media on-side from the time of the captaincy announcement would represent a pretty good springboard.

If the 2013 Lions want the best man available leading the four-country charge then everything points to one very special player.

There are so many reasons why and I cannot think of a single reason why not. It’s over to you Gatty.

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