Thursday’s top rugby news has the reaction to the O’Driscoll and Smith selection bombshells, the Lions pleading innocence and White free to coach the Wallabies.
Reaction to O’Driscoll axing
Unsurprisingly there have been plenty of reactions from around the world regarding the shock axing of Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll. Former Lions hooker Keith Wood was one of the most vocal, labelling the call a “terrible mistake” when speaking with the BBC. Also speaking to the BBC, another former Lion Willie John McBride rubbished the XV selected and the “absolutely amazing” decision to drop BOD, which he said Robbie Deans would have loved. Ian Robertson, the BBC’s rugby union correspondent went further claiming the dropping of BOD was “catastrophic”, as has been the general approach to selections throughout the series.
The Telegraph’s Mick Cleary was concise in his thoughts, saying Gatland “has made a big call. And it is the wrong call.” Elsewhere, Campo has said that the decision has effectively handed the series to the Wallabies, whilst Dan Carter thinks that BOD should be both starting and captain.
Praise for Smith selection
A major selection proving rather less controversial than the dropping of ’Driscoll is George Smith’s selection in the Wallabies starting side. George Gregan said “I don’t know any more influential players in rugby, he’s a magical talent” who on occasions can “transcend everyone else on a field”
Eddie Jones was also extremely happy with the inclusion, highlighting the potential for it to influence Smith’s teammates “The best thing is he’ll lift all players around him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cliffy Palu is the best player on the field.” Lastly, former Wallabies hooker Brendon Cannon was similarly pleased labelling Smith “hands-down one of the greatest players I ever had the pleasure to play with or against” and the decision to reinstate him a “masterstroke.” While some have expressed disappointment there is no room for Liam Gill in the 23-man squad, the praise for Smith’s inclusion appears universal.
Lions plead innocence
There have been numerous rumours floating around about exactly how it was that the IRB chose to re-open the James Horwill stamping case. Lions’ manager Andy Irvine looked to put paid to some of those when he spoke to the media yesterday. “I’d just like to clarify that we had nothing at all to do with requesting the IRB look at it (for a second time). We were as surprised as anybody” Irvine said.
The tour manager continued to say that while he personally thought that an initial investigation was warranted, the Lions were happy to accept the original verdict delivered by Nigel Hampton.
White free to coach Wallabies
If there is one thing Aussie rugby fans like discussing as much as the merits of Quade Cooper as a flyhalf, it is the standard of Robbie Deans’ work as Wallabies coach. Alongside Ewen McKenzie, the name often floated as a possible replacement for Deans is Jake White. White has previously expressed his desire to return to the international coaching arena but also his desire to see out his current term with the Brumbies.
However yesterday Brumbies Chief Executive Andrew Fagan advised that the franchise would allow White to apply if the job became available, even though he has two years to run on his contract. “He would be remaining in Australian rugby and that’s a positive thing for the Brumbies” Fagan said. No doubt the coaching speculation will continue to heat up over the second half of the year.