BRIAN O’Driscoll reflected on his first British & Irish Lions series win through gritted teeth yesterday and could muster only faint praise for Jonathan Davies whose final-Test selection ahead of him was so controversial.
O’Driscoll, in his fourth Lions tour, played in the first two Tests but was left out of the match 23 for Sunday’s 41-16 victory in Brisbane as coach Warren Gatland opted for the Welsh centre pairing of Davies and Jamie Roberts.
The selection caused a storm, particularly in Ireland, with respected former players attacking New Zealander Gatland for “not understanding the Lions”. While O’Driscoll paid lip service to the “one for all” philosophy in a newspaper column yesterday, he was notably restrained in his praise for Davies.
“I would back myself but there is little between myself and Foxy (Davies),” he wrote. “Foxy had a solid game on Saturday. His left boot really came into play a couple of times.
“It was a game I might have looked all right in myself but you cannot say.
“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,” added O’Driscoll.
“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: 100 per cent you want the team to go well. But thanks be to God, I am a series winner with the British and Irish Lions, albeit it did not finish as I would have liked it to. But you cannot write your own script. Other people write it for you.”
O’Driscoll said he had only ever been dropped before as a 17-year-old and that having to sit through the game was tough.
“Having seen others react in the past to being dropped has given me an insight into how to respond and behave properly,” he added.
“I have seen guys who are dead men walking on tours when they have not been selected and you cannot be that person. The tour is not about you. For you, the decision is huge. For everyone else, you are just one component of it.
“You deal with your own disappointment in your own way, behind closed doors, but publicly you have to realise that the bigger picture is not your selection, it is about winning the series.
“It is about doing the right thing for everyone, setting the tone around the lads, doing what needs to be done at training, trying to be positive when you have a big inner disappointment.
“I have said all along on this tour that it is the contributions of everyone that will make or break it,” said O’Driscoll.
“That was true and remains true. Suddenly I was that person. You cannot say things one week and then behave differently. You have to suck it up. I hope I did my bit last week.”