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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

Keith Wood ‘totally at a loss’ over lack of subtlety in Lions game-plan and selection

The former hooker believes Gatland has consistently tried to ‘de-power’ the issue captaincy and on-field leadership.

Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

KEITH WOOD, THE man who was replaced as Ireland captain by Brian O’Driscoll, was this morning left bewildered by the decision of Warren Gatland to omit the centre from Saturday’s decisive third Test against Australia.

The former hooker, who also toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2001, had harsh words for the Kiwi coach. Particularly honing in on the lack of imagination shown in his game-plan.

“I’m totally at a loss.” Wood told BBC Radio 5. “I understand you could say, he’s picking on form, but he’s picking an unbelievably direct team with very little guile to it specifically to play this gameplan.”

He added: “I think Warren Gatland has made a mistake. He has gone and picked a team that will play a style of rugby that he wants. He has wanted that style of rugby played for the last two or three months.

“That’s missing what the Lions is about. The Lions is about having the best quality from these islands. Not having an intransigent game-plan, low on subtlety, but simplistic from the start.

“I just feel it’s been incredibly hard watching, because we’re not seeing that spark we’re used to seeing from the Lions because we’re seeing a game-plan that I don’t think suits an awful lot of the players.

“It suits the Welsh players and that’s why there’s 10 of them playing – It’s really, really frustrating.”

Despite looking at a team with 10 players from Wales – who have not beaten Australia in six attempts under Gatland – Wood was keen to stress that the decision would not distract him from supporting the Lions “100%” come kick-off. Yet he stressed that the issue of captaincy and leadership within the Lions squad was one which Gatland has not properly grasped from the start.

“I felt uncomfortable for an awful lot of this tour.” Wood admits.” Every time Warren Gatland has spoke about captaincy he’s consistently tried to de-power it. He’s consistently said it isn’t about leadership, it’s not the most important thing.

“Having been on two tours with Martin Johnson, I’d say that leadership of the captain was the most important thing. It’s a rally cry and something that is needed. Brian O’Driscoll has been quiet in two Tests, but at every stage he has been the clarion call.”

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