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BOD still the only man to lead Lions - provided he swerves injury

THE only reason that Ireland coach Declan Kidney has been touted as unpredictable in the last week is that he makes so few changes. This might sound contradictory.

But why is it that commentators, columnists and former players are able to list the number of 'shock selections' Kidney has made as a coach?

Simple really. It is because there have been so few. They stand out like a sore point for those who have been on the receiving end. Like Peter Stringer for the 2008 Heineken Cup quarter-final.

Kidney's decision to remove the Ireland captaincy from Brian O'Driscoll caused a media storm into which Shane Horgan and Reggie Corrigan flew last week.

Rightly, they felt aggrieved for their friend, often proclaimed as Ireland's greatest ever player and our longest reigning captain.

O'Driscoll is a national treasure that does not need polishing. His legacy is secure. It will not be undermined by Jamie Heaslip's appointment as captain for the 2013 Six Nations.

The Naas man is a natural leader, something O'Driscoll was not seen as when he first took over the Ireland armband. There is logic in leaving O'Driscoll to cope with his body, while leaving Heaslip to lead the team.



Whole

This is a team sport, something Ireland's record try-scorer has always pushed as the priority. The whole takes precedence over the individual. That is why he has kept a quiet counsel. It is a mark of the man.

Moreover, the very notion trotted out that O'Driscoll's candidacy to become a two-time British & Irish Lions captain will be somehow compromised by Kidney's view is nonsense.

If ever there was a coach who thrived on controversy and making contentious selections, it is surely Warren Gatland.

The Kiwi clearly espouses the New Zealand attitude of 'if you are good enough, you are old enough'. He capped 18-year-old Tom Prydie for Wales against Italy in the 2010 Six Nations and 18-year-old George North against South Africa in November 2010.

Gatland also made an audacious bid to take Clongowes Wood schoolboy Gordon D'Arcy on tour with Ireland to South Africa in 1998. The Leaving Certificate took precedence then.

The point is that Gatland has shown a history of taking a chance on youth. There should be nothing to stop him taking a chance on experience.



Plaudits

There is a solid argument that Gatland did not opt for Leinster coach Joe Schmidt for his management team in Australia because Schmidt might have taken too many of the plaudits.

Certainly, the brains trust of Wales' Rob Howley and England's Andy Farrell will not exactly send a shiver of fear down the spine of Wallaby coach Robbie Deans.

Gatland would not risk the demise of the British & Irish Lions tour because he did not bring the most experienced and decorated centre in Europe to contest the number 13 jersey with Wales' Jonathan Davies, 24, and England's Manu Tuilagi, 22.

At the moment, the brutal truth is that Davies and Tuilagi have so much to learn about the overall responsibilities of the position they play. Neither can touch O'Driscoll for all-round knowledge or the canny ability to make the right decision in a split-second.

Gatland will not turn away from O'Driscoll as his captain for any reason other than the possible fact that he is not sure whether he is a definite Test starter.

The creep of injury to neck and ankle must cast a shadow of doubt over O'Driscoll's safety through the Six Nations and on into what is left of his club season.

Not deemed right for Ireland. O'Driscoll is still your only man for The Lions - at centre and as captain - as long as his body can hold out.