Defining night for Kiwi rugby coaches' careers

19:12, Jul 05 2013
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell, who led the Lions to South Africa in 2009, feels the Hong Kong heat as the touring side take on the Barbarians.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Takudzwa Ngwenya of the Barbarians is tackled by the Lions' Welsh duo of Jamie Roberts and Adam Jones, right.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Wales halfback Mike Phillips dives over to score for the Lions against the Barbarians.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Ireland and Lions first-five Johnny Sexton lines up a shot at goal against the Barbarians.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
British and Irish fans are in fine voice as the Lions arrive in Perth to take on Super Rugby side, the Western Force.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
England and Lions centre Manu Tuilagi takes a run at the Western Force defence.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Irish wing Tommy Bowe shows why he was selected to tour despite missing the Six Nations for Ireland with injury.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Celtic cousins: An Irish fan and a Welsh fan unite to support the Lions.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Lions tour captain Sam Warburton takes in the atmosphere in Perth. He is yet to start a game because of injury.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll leads out the Lions to face the Western Force.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Lions and England prop Mako Vunipola charges at the Force defence.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Not many Scots featured for the Lions against the Force but there was plenty Scottish spirit on display in the stands.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Powerful Irish flanker Sean O'Brien tries to use some fancy footwork to get the ball past the Force's Corey Brown.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny landed 100 per cent of his attempts at goal for the Lions against the Force.
British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Lions coach Warren Gatland looks very pleased after his side comfortably beats the Western Force in Perth.
Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell
Ben Youngs (left) is congratulated by Owen Farrell after his second half try against Queensland.
Tommy Bowe
Tommy Bowe, with his right arm in a sling, is consoled by Richard Hibbard.
Richie Gray
Richie Gray reaches back to pull down a lineout throw.
George North
Lions wing George North fends off a Queensland Reds player.
Owen Farrell
Lions first-five Owen Farrell takes a penalty kick at goal.
Ben Tapuai
Queensland's Ben Tapuai is tackled high by a Lions player.
Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton leads the Lions out onto Suncorp Stadium in his debut match.
Sean O'Brien
Lions forward Sean O'Brien dives over to score in the corner, one of 10 tries in the 64-0 rout.
Sean Maitland
Sean Maitland skips away from the tackle of a Country Combined defender.
Brian O'Driscoll
Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll is upended in a tackle in Newcastle.
Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll slides over to score against Country Combined.
Toby Faletau
Lions No 8 Toby Faletau prepares to pack down into the scrum.
Lions fans
Three Lion-hooded fans watch the tourists rout Combined Country in Newcastle.
Lions v Waratahs
Jamie Heaslip of the Lions charges upfield during the match between the NSW Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions.
Lions v Waratahs
Rob Kearney of the Lions breaks with the ball during the match between the NSW Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions.
Lions v Waratahs
Jamie Roberts of the Lions is tackled by John Ulugia during the match between the NSW Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions.
Lions v Waratahs
Simon Zebo of the Lions is tackled by Bernard Foley (L) and John Ulugia during the match between the NSW Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions.
Lions vs Brumbies
British & Irish Lions wing Christian Wade leaps for a high-ball against the Brumbies' Ian Prior during their tour match at Canberra Stadium.
ACT Brumbies
ACT Brumbies players celebrate their 14-12 victory over the British & Irish Lions.
Rory Best
Match captain Rory Best lead the dejected British & Irish Lions off the field.
Shane Williams
Lions wing Shane Williams tries to escape the grasp of Henry Speight.
Clyde Rathbone
Brumbies wing Clyde Rathbone is hit by Christian Wade (left) and Rob Kearney.
Billy Twelvetrees
Lions centre Billy Twelvetrees is lifted off his feet in the tackle by Matt Toomua.
Jamie Heaslip and Alex Cuthbert
Jamie Heaslip (left) celebrates after Alex Cuthbert (centre) scored to give the British & Irish Lions the lead.
George North
George North punches the ball in celebration after scoring in the first half for the Lions.
George North
Israel Folau denies George North a try in the corner.
Lions win first test
Lions players celebrate at the final whistle of the first test in Brisbane.
Lions win first test
The victorious Lions walk up the players' tunnel to the applause of the fans.
Kurtley Beale
Kurtley Beale slips as he attempts to kick a potential match-winning penalty.
Jonathan Davies and Kurtley Beale
Jonathan Davies (right) gets up-ended as he collides in the air with Kurtley Beale.
Israel Folau
Israel Folau dives over to score one of his two tries in the first half.
Christian Lealiifano
Christian Lealiifano is stretchered off in the opening minutes of the first test.
Lions fans
A trio of Irish Lions fans at Suncorp Stadium.
Lions fans
A fired-up Lions fan celebrates the first test victory.
Will Genia
Wallabies halfback Will Genia is hit by Jamie Heaslip as he attempts to kick.
Sean Maitland
Kiwi-born Scottish international Sean Maitland goes over for one of the British & Irish Lions five tries in their 35-0 rout of the Melbourne Rebels.
Manu Tuilagi
Lions centre Manu Tuilagi skips out of the grasp of the Melbourne Rebels' Jason Woodward.
Simon Zebo
Simon Zebo finds space against the Melbourne Rebels.
Rob Sidey and Brad Barritt
Melbourne's Rob Sidey is tackled off his feet by Brad Barritt.
Lions fans
Five Lions fans spell out their support in Melbourne.
Cooper Vuna and Stuart Hogg
Melbourne's Cooper Vuna collides with Stuart Hogg going up for a high-ball.
Adam Ashley-Cooper
Wallabies fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper celebrates his match-winning try late in the second test.
George North and Israel Folau
Lions wing George North lifts Israel Folau off the ground in the tackle.
Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny successfully kicks a penalty in the second half.
Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny is consoled by Jonathan Sexton (left) and Sean Maitland after his extra-time penalty to win fell short.
Wallabies celebrate
Wallabies players James Horwill and Benn Robinson celebrate as Leigh Halfpenny's kick misses.
Sam Warburton
Lions captain Sam Warburton is helped from the field during the second test.
Mako Vunipola
Lions prop Mako Vunipola charges through the Wallabies' defence.
Mako Vunipola
Mako Vunipola wipes his face during a break in play.
Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones receives some treatment on his legs.
George North
Lions wing George North evades two Wallabies players.
Lions fans
Lions fans at Etihad Stadium before the second test.
Lions fans
Lions fans at Etihad Stadium before the second test.
Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Roberts, Conor Murray
Jamie Roberts (centre) and Conor Murray congratulate Jonathan Sexton on his second half try.
Alex Corbisiero
Lions prop Alex Corbisiero squeezes over for the first try of the deciding test.
Lions celebrate
Lions players and staff celebrate their third test and series victory in Sydney.
Lions celebrate
Lions and Wallabies players show contrasting emotions at the final whistle.
Jamie Roberts
Centre Jamie Roberts dives over for a second half try that sealed the Lions' victory.
James O'Connor
Justin Tipuric is fended off by Wallabies first-five James O'Connor.
Dan Lydiate
Lions lock Dan Lydiate rises high to take the ball from a lineout.
Jamie Roberts
Centre Jamie Roberts sprints away from the chasing Wallabies defence.
Jonathan Sexton
Jonathan Sexton celebrates the series victory with Lions fans in the stands.
Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll, dropped for the third test, celebrates the team's victory.
Lions fans
Lions fans pay tribute to former captain Brian O'Driscoll.
Lions celebrate
Injured captain Sam Warburton holds the series trophy after victory at ANZ Stadium.

Oone of the great fallacies of sport is that the result justifies the means. If the Lions win tonight, people will hail Warren Gatland as a visionary, as the man who had the courage to drop Brian O'Driscoll and pick 10 Welshmen, despite the outcry he knew it would cause.

But if Australia wins, does that therefore make Robbie Deans correct to persist with James O'Connor at No 10, despite his evident unsuitability for the role. Of course it does not.

The truth is that whichever New Zealander coaches the winning team will do so despite his mistakes. Both Gatland and Deans have a little way to go as coaches before they can match up to Graham Henry, Dave Rennie or Wayne Smith.

Brian O'Driscoll
KIWI BLASTED: Warren Gatland has left some extremely upset Irish rugby fans in the wake of his decision to axe Brian O'Driscoll from his side for the final test.

My reservations about Gatland's selection of 10 Welshmen has nothing to do with quotas or prejudice. In 1971 Carwyn James, a proud Welshman who promoted Welsh nationalist members of parliament, picked nine of his countrymen to play for the Lions against the All Blacks in the first test in New Zealand. James picked them because they were the best players.

But the 10 who will start against Australia on Saturday for the Lions are not all the best players. Indeed, it would probably be 12 starters if Gethin Jenkins and Sam Warburton had not been injured.

This does not make sense for one very good reason. Wales have a terrible record against Australia compared to England, Ireland or even Scotland.

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The Welsh have won two of their previous 23 tests against Australia and the last time they won Down Under was in 1969. Scotland have won their last two matches against Australia, England have won two of their last three and were victorious in Sydney in 2010. Ireland have won two of their last five and drawn one, including the big win in the World Cup.

These are the reasons why the former Australia wing David Campese claimed the Lions had just "handed the series to Australia", and then accused Gatland of panic.

The manifestly superior record of the other nations is not down to a statistical fluke over such a period of time. It is down to personnel, playing styles and an ability to travel.

Gatland's preference for Jonathan Davies over Brian O'Driscoll is particularly baffling. The 1974 Lions captain, Willie John McBride, said: "I was absolutely gutted. The first thing that came into my mind was that Robbie Deans, Australia's coach, must be laughing all the way."

Former Ireland captain Keith Wood called it a "terrible mistake". Even Dan Carter tweeted, "There must be some angry Irish waking up to see Brian O'Driscoll not playing this weekend. He should be captain."

But as we have seen for Ireland, O'Driscoll is too far from the action to be a top captain in the modern game. By the time O'Driscoll had the ear of Romain Poite on Saturday, James Horwill and Will Genia would have already declared Australia to be an independent state. Alun Wyn Jones was the right choice as skipper, but to drop O'Driscoll altogether is a nonsense.

Jonathan Davies was the difference between winning and losing last weekend. He missed the tackle for the Wallabies try, dropped a ball with no-one near him and kicked away a piece of prime attacking possession. Yet Gatland talks up Davies' performance against New South Wales as though it is relevant to this week's test.

Gatland said of dropping O'Driscoll: "It's only hard because you are making the decision using your head and not your heart.

"Our kicking game was poor last week. We wanted to put the ball behind them a little bit which we didn't do well enough and Jonathan is a left-foot kicking option for us. He didn't get a lot of ball to go forward last week but when he did carry he made a couple of good dents in them."

The return of Jamie Roberts, the only genuine second-five in the Lions party, is a big plus for Gatland. At last the Lions can attack the inside channel, pulling in defenders and allowing Mike Phillips and others to go again. There is, however, the worry that Roberts is not match sharp and had a shocker when he came back from injury last time, spilling ball after ball.

The return of George Smith is also as big a plus for Australia. Deans said: "His expertise in the contact zone, where timing, judgment and physicality is everything, is going to be critical."

We always knew that this series was going to be tight, desperately tight. The aggregate score currently stands at Australia 37 Lions 38.

John Eales said a while ago: "If he [Gatland] does decide to run with a Welsh-dominated side, that country's poor record against the Wallabies might be more significant than he would like to concede." 

The Dominion Post