Jonathan Davies on Brian O'Driscoll's team bus gesture on Lions Tour
"I was like, 'Oh my God!'"
Back in July 2013, it all kicked off in Australia and in both Britain and Ireland. Jonathan Davies took Brian O'Driscoll's place in the British & Irish Lions Test team and rugby earth shook.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland had started Davies (selected at inside centre) and O'Driscoll in midfield for the first two Test matches against Australia but was having his doubts after the hosts levelled the series in Melbourne.
With Jamie Roberts and Manu Tuilagi, who had missed out on the first two Tests, back in the frame, many felt Davies could make way in order for Gatland to reprise the Roberts/O'Driscoll combination from the 2009 Lions Tour.
However, when the axe fell it fell on O'Driscoll. Gatland went for Roberts and Davies at 12 and 13, with Tuilagi on the bench.
It was the first time in the 15-season career of O'Driscoll that he had been dropped, and it came with all the marbles to play for against a fired-up Wallabies side. On House of Rugby, Davies and Sean O'Brien, who featured in the Second and Third Test, recalled that climatic week in Australia.
"I remember that week," joked O'Brien, who featured in the Second and Third Test. "Foxy was walking around like cock of the hoop after he got named in the team. He didn't mind about O'Driscoll being dropped, while the rest of us were nearly in tears!"
Davies recalls bing called in for a chat with Gatland and Rob Howley, his assistant, on the morning the team would be named for the Third Test.
"I'd being playing 12 and they said, 'You need to learn the role for this move, for the 13 jersey'. I was like, 'Okay', and I started smiling.
"And they said, 'Are you all right?' and I said, 'Oh yeah. It's all going to kick off soon!'
"The team was announced [soon after] and we get on the bus to go to training. Obviously, being a younger member of the squad, I was down the front and I hadn't earned my stripes, to go down the back, at that point. Fair play to Drico. He was walking by and stopped, shakes my hand and congratulates me.
"There was a responsibility, then, to make sure we went out and won the Third Test."
Jonathan Davies recalls going live on Sky Sports for an interview ahead of that pivotal Test and being asked if him being selected ahead of the Irish rugby legend meant he was a better player than him.
"Obviously it was a talking point," he says, "but there were 45 guys out there trying to win a Test Series, and thankfully we went out and did the job. we all had a few beers afterwards and those couple of days afterwards are some of the best memories I've ever had in my life."
The Lions' scrum ultimately turned that Third Test in their favour, with Alex Corbisiero having one of the all-time great loose-head outings that included a try after only 90 seconds. In the end, Gatland's controversial decision was justified by the series win and O'Driscoll took the tough moment with commendable grace.
Davies, who was Lions' Player of the Series in 2017, will be hoping to be have a good Six Nations - starting with the Wales vs. Ireland game on February 7 - and make his third British & Irish Lions squad to take on South Africa later this year.
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