AUSTRALIA are preparing to face Ireland's talisman Brian O'Driscoll during this summer's Lions Tour with injury the only possible reason he won't make the plane.
Wallabies' coaching coordinator, former Munster coach Tony McGahan, believes there is no way Warren Gatland would leave a potential game-changer at home.
"If Brian is fit then he will, I am sure, be a big part of the Lions Tour," said McGahan. "Brian is a player who commands huge respect on this side of the world.
"What he has achieved with Leinster and, in particular, with Ireland is well known in Australia. He is a player who has certainly been a marvellous player for a long number of years and he continues to be.
"O'Driscoll is a player who can win a match with one moment of magic and I am certain he will be a part of the touring party that travels to Australia."
Whether Paul O'Connell will be part of that squad is unknown as he rehabs from his back injury. But he is another McGahan believes could well be a big part of Gatland's masterplan.
He added: "I don't know how things are with him other than what I have read. Having a back operation is a serious thing, but if he's fit and playing well there are few around who are better than Paul O'Connell."
Meanwhile, Gatland has called on Australian opposite number Robbie Deans to allow his Wallabies stars to play in the Lions' warm-up games next June.
The tourists will face all five of the country's Super Rugby teams before taking on the national team in three Tests - and Gatland wants them to play the strongest teams possible.
On their last visit Down Under to Australia in 2001, the tourists racked up a number of facile wins over understrength provincial sides before losing the Test series 2-1.
"From the experience that we learnt from four years ago, it's all about preparing for the Test matches, so the harder the games are, the better prepared we're going to be," Gatland told journalists in Melbourne, where he is preparing for the upcoming Lions series.