HE was hot favourite to lead the British and Irish Lions out in the final test on Saturday against the Wallabies after Sam Warburton was crocked through injured.
But there is shock and dismay in northern hemisphere rugby with the announcement that Brian O’Driscoll – aka BOD – has not only not been picked as captain.
Coach Warren Gatland has dropped him from the first 15 and the replacements bench which is being seen as one of the most bizarre decision’s of his reign.
Instead, Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones will captain the Lions in the final Test in Melbourne.
O’Driscoll had been the favourite to replace injured skipper Sam Warburton and has been left “totally gutted” by his shock omission.
Alun Wyn Jones is one of 10 Welshman in the side, equalling the Lions record.
The decision to drop ‘BOD’ completely from the squad has been branded in rugby circles as a “massive mistake”.
O’Driscoll, 34, was seen as the likely replacement for Warburton as he has led sides at international level on a world-record 84 occasions – in 83 of his 125 Tests for Ireland, plus the first Lions Test in New Zealand in 2005.
He has also captained the Lions six other times, but his performances in the first two games against Australia prompted Gatland to look elsewhere.
O’Driscoll wrote on Twitter : “Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through.”
It is certainly not the way ‘BOD’ wanted to bring the curtain down on his Lions career.
Gatland said it was the first time a coach had dropped O’Driscoll in “15 years of rugby”.
“It’s not easy for that to be the first time but he is still going to be very important for us in the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership,” he said.
“Brian was disappointed but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement.
“Jamie is back fit and has been given the nod because of his partnership with Davies.”
Gatland makes six changes to the team beaten in the second Test, with centre Jamie Roberts fit to start.
Prop Alex Corbisiero, hooker Richard Hibbard, flanker Sean O’Brien, scrum-half Mike Phillips and number eight Toby Faletau are also included.
There is a further positional change, with Jonathan Davies reverting to his more regular outside centre role, having started in the number 12 jersey for the first two Tests alongside O’Driscoll.
With the series tied at 1-1, Gatland – also head coach of the Wales national side – turned to many of the players he knows from that role for the deciding final game in Sydney. The selection of 10 Wales players equals the record for the number of Welshmen in a Lions starting XV set in the first Test against Australia in 1950.
Roberts missed the first two Tests – a 23-21 victory in Brisbane followed by a 16-15 defeat in Melbourne – with a hamstring problem but returns to partner Davies after O’Driscoll’s omission.
Alun Wyn Jones leads the Lions for the first time, though the 70-times capped 27-year-old has captained Wales once before.
“Hopefully I’ve been selected for the way I play and not necessarily the way I lead,” he said. “I played from the start of the tour with an eye on getting into the first Test. To be selected in the position I am for the final Test is a pretty special moment for me personally, but obviously there’s still a job to do.”
Gatland added: “He leads from the front. He’s been outstanding in the lead-up games and was one of the first names on the teamsheet when we picked the side for the first two Tests.
“He’ll lead by example. There are leaders in other positions as well.”
The new Lions captain will line up opposite Australia counterpart James Horwill, who was cleared of stamping on the Welshman’s head in the first Test.
With Warburton out through injury, versatile Irishman O’Brien, who has started two games at six and two at seven on tour and came on at number eight in the second Test, gets the nod over open-side specialist Justin Tipuric, who is on the bench.
There are further changes among the replacements, with lock Richie Gray included in the matchday squad alongside centre Manu Tuilagi.
Hooker Tom Youngs and prop Mako Vunipola drop down to the bench, but O’Driscoll, scrum-half Ben Youngs and number eight Jamie Heaslip are omitted from the 23 altogether.
This will be the third successive Lions tour to Australia that has gone to a decisive third Test.
The Lions won 19-18 in Sydney in 1989 but were beaten 29-23 on their most recent tour in 2001. They have not won a Test series anywhere since their victory in South Africa 16 years ago.
British and Irish Lions: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Jamie Roberts (Wales), George North (Wales), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales); Alex Corbisiero (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), Geoff Parling (England), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Toby Faletau (Wales)
Replacements: Tom Youngs (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Dan Cole (England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Conor Murray (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England), Manu Tuilagi (England)