Brian O’Driscoll has criticised Warren Gatland for making Peter O’Mahony a scapegoat for New Zealand’s victory over the Lions in the first Test.
O’Mahony, who captained the side in the 30-15 loss at Eden Park, has been replaced by tour captain Sam Warburton in the back row and doesn’t even make the bench for Saturday’s must-win second Test.
O’Driscoll, who suffered a similar fate at the hands of Gatland after the Lions lost the second Test on the 2013 tour to Australia, believes it was harsh to blame his former Ireland team-mate.
Peter O’Mahony has been dropped from the Lions squad for the second Test in Wellington
Brian O’Driscoll believes O’Mahony has been made a scapegoat for the defeat in Auckland
‘Very tough on Peter O’Mahony going from skipper to non-23,’ wrote O’Driscoll on Twitter, before adding: ‘Has to be someone to point the finger at in defeat.’
Despite protests that the switch was made for tactical reasons, O’Driscoll responded: ‘He was captain and now isn’t togging out. Read between the lines.’
Gatland said O’Mahony was ‘very unlucky’ to be omitted but insisted Warburton was the right option for the second Test.
‘It was a tough call,’ said the Lions head coach. ‘We need to get some pressure on the ball and that is something Sam is excellent at doing and he has got some rugby under his belt now.
‘Peter has done a great job for us. He’s unlucky that we have choices and can use different combinations.
‘We could have put Peter on the bench and we had a long discussion about that, but CJ Stander has had an outstanding Six Nations and was good the other night with his carries and his physicality, so the impact he is able to bring off the bench could be significant.’
Meanwhile, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he was relieved Ireland’s Iain Henderson was only yellow-carded for tip-tackling in Tuesday’s 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes, an incident he felt was similar to the spearing controversy that ended Lions captain O’Driscoll’s tour in 2005.
‘Henderson and someone else picked up a player and it was very reminiscent of what happened to Brian O’Driscoll,’ said Hansen.
‘I’m pleased he just got a yellow card because he didn’t do that intentionally, but in the heat of the moment his skills at the breakdown haven’t been right.’
O’Driscoll was dropped by Warren Gatland ahead of the third and final Test four years ago
The Lions will again come up against Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock who form the world’s deadliest second-row pairing, but Maro Itoje insists he can mastermind a way to trump one of New Zealand’s many weapons.
The 22-year-old, who will partner Alun Wyn Jones in the Lions’ engine room, said: ‘We acknowledge they are two good operators, very talented guys with a good work ethic. But the challenge is to surpass that.
‘We’ve got a good challenge in front of us. It’s one we’ve prepared well for this week and one we’ll rise to. We haven’t come here to be second best.’