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Dallaglio The Crucial Loss.
7 July 2005, 8:15 pm
In most observers eyes, Clive Woodward will shoulder the blame for the Test series whitewash, but the loss of Lawrence Dallaglio proved to be a mortal blow for this tour
In most observers eyes, Clive Woodward will shoulder the blame for the Test series whitewash. However, the respective national coaches of Ireland and England must shoulder some responsibility while the loss of Lawrence Dallaglio proved to be a mortal blow for this tour and particularly the players themselves.

Dallaglio's departure was much more significant than that of captain Brian O'Driscoll because it was generally accepted that for the Lions to have a chance, they had to at the very least, gain parity up front. If also robbed them of the one person who is a nutural leader on and off the field.

Even if O'Driscoll hadn't suffered that unfortunate injury, the evidence is that the lack of quality ball would have curtailed his effectiveness although his defensive ability was sadly missed.

There is also the possibility that had Dallaglio been around he would have exerted sufficient influence on the first test selection to give his side a fighting chance, something that Woodward's selection didn't do. He might also have insisted that Woodward heed the advice of Willie John McBride, who in the aftermath of the first test defeat advised that the Lions management should basically shut-up and get on with it.

It has to be assumed that Eddie O'Sullivan had little or no part in that selection process or indeed in any of the Saturday selections but if he had then the backs coach owes an apology to a few players, starting with Shane Horgan and then Mark Cueto and Ronan O'Gara, maybe even Chris Cusiter, but principally Horgan.

Could O'Sullivan have been happy for Sir Clive to send Greenwood on for O'Driscoll in the opening Test.?

After subsequent respective displays, how in the name of God did the Harlequin get into the starting XV for the final Test ahead of Horgan ?

Did the Irish coach think Jason Robinson was the best option at 15 ?

A change here, a change there. Just clutching at straws ?

Maybe. But the point is that having gotten the combination so wrong for the opener, eleven changes were deemed necessary for the second Test, which meant starting from scratch again. How easy was that for the players.

Nine games (including Argentina) into the tour and a Lions side goes out to play together - in the third last game of the tour - for the first time. - Big ask ?

Of course it was a difficult task to go out there, pull a side together in six weeks and take on an outfit like the All Blacks. But was it any more difficult than what was asked of the Lions in Australia or South Africa prior to that ?

Paul O'Connell is an honest broker and when he talks about the players themselves taking responsibility he has of course a point. However, some of his colleagues will take issue with his contention that "not one of us can hold our hands up and say we had a very good tour.", people for example like Simon Easterby and Ryan Jones, a pair who weren't even on the original tour party.

Paul's comment might raise an eyebrow among Shane Horgan, Mark Cueto supporters ?

Again the point is there was so much chopping 'n changing - injury aside - that there was nothing settled about the Test side until the last game.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Woodward, O'Sullivan and Robinson had, at their disposal enough quality to, at the very least, to give the Blacks a real go.

That they failed to do so cannot be laid solely at the player's door nor does it do the players any favours for the management to to be now talking of this as a successful tour.

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