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Buster Gonad?

July 9, 2013 3 comments

The man with the biggest balls in British sport was not on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Sunday. He was on the other side of the planet no doubt enjoying a glass of red and a cigar after an epic success in Sydney. His name is Warren Gatland.

Back here in the United Kingdom the main media attention was always going to switch to Andy Murray`s quest to finally win the trophy for Britain (or was it Scotland?), and with no tyre blow-outs of note at the Nurburgring over the weekend the F1 Grand Prix quickly became a sideshow. But back in Sydney a squad of tired players, their coaches and all the support staff partied hard and deservedly so.

Gatland had taken some real stick in the build-up to Saturday`s deciding Test Match after a narrow defeat seven days before had allowed the Australians to level the series. Some of the more vociferous pro-English critics had never taken to his supposed Welsh selection bias, and when he then had the temerity to drop Ireland centre Brian O`Driscoll for the Sydney showdown the gloves were well and truly taken off.

Keith Wood, a former team mate of O`Driscoll`s turned media pundit, labelled the decision a “terrible mistake” warning that the team selected possessed “very little guile”. Wales legend Phil Bennett aimed a broadside of his own at the 49 year-old Kiwi claiming that “everything had gone to pieces” with the squad selected for the final game of the tour.

Another Lions great, former skipper Willie John McBride, blasted that he was “absolutely gutted” whilst Daily Telegraph columnist Oliver Brown weighed in with arguably the most ill-advised pile of anti-Welsh drivel many, including a lot of seasoned rugby journos, have possibly ever read.

In fairness to the Telegraph, they worked hard to balance the argument subsequently but Brown`s piece should never have seen the light of day.

Gatland, according to The Sun, came close to quitting the Lions altogether in the face of what German Chancellor Andrea Merkel would call a “shitstorm”. But he stuck to his guns, stayed in office and by lunchtime on Saturday (UK time) had been completely and utterly vindicated as any divisions in the Lions camp were put to one side.

The Wallabies were never good enough to win this series and their weaknesses were laid bare on Saturday as Gatland`s men took them apart piece by painful piece.

The hosts apparently wanted to take the Lions out of their comfort zone but by playing Super 15 rugby in a full-on Test Match showed themselves to be utterly naive. If you cannot compete at all at the scrum, contest effectively your opponents lineout, or cause problems at the breakdown – where it was a blessed relief to have a Northern Hemisphere Referee – you are finished.

Kicking easy three pointers to the corner confident in your ability to turn them into seven is all well and good until the plan starts to unravel. Australia did not have a Plan B.

Gatland`s warriors did though and after surviving a rocky spell either side of half-time cleared their heads and kicked on.

Three second half tries and a masterclass in game management from full-back Leigh Halfpenny left the Australians in tatters after 50 minutes of softening-up from the Lions pack.

O`Driscoll was not needed, he never was, and I would have got the controversy out of the way nice and early by not selecting him for the tour in the first place. A great player undoubtedly but Warren Gatland knew who he could rely on to do the job his way in Sydney and he got what he asked for.

It was a timely reminder to us all that Coaches pick teams and live or die by their selection. Sport has winners and losers, nothing inbetween, and here Warren Gatland was a winner. His opposite number Robbie Deans has quietly fallen on his sword.

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