British & Lions taking a gamble - Robbie

Coach Warren Gatland has backed Welsh players ahead of the series decider against Australia.

DOWN & OUT: British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton gets treated for an injury during the second test against Australia. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESUBURG - Former British and Irish Lions scrumhalf John Robbie has described coach Warren Gatland's decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll for the final Test against Australia as "going for broke".

The experienced Irish centre was expected to captain the side in Sam Warburton's absence, but instead has been dropped entirely with Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones skippering the team.

The Lions head to Sydney to take on the Wallabies in the series decider.

Robbie says this match could've been O'Driscoll's swan song for the Lions.

"There are two levels. The first one is for Brian who I know well, I used to play against his dad. Brian is a fabulous kid; he's one of the modern greats. I think realistically [speaking] this was his last hurrah.

"From his perspective, with Warburton being injured, I think he would have dreamt of being made captain and leading the Lions to victory. Instead, Gatland has dropped him."

Robbie says O'Driscoll has struggled to live up to his devastating reputation on this tour.

"Looking at it from Gatland's side, the Lions backs were disappointing last week and O'Driscoll hasn't been the factor in attack in the Test matches that Gatland would have hoped.

"Gatland worked with the Welsh team, they had a fantastic season and they ended up playing wonderful rugby. He's gone for a Welshmen ahead of others in most cases."

The Lions coach might have to fend off accusations of favouritism should the Lions fail to beat the Wallabies. There are 10 Welsh players in the team's starting line-up.

"It's a brave decision because if he loses, the weight of public opinion will come back on him. He's always been a brave coach who has backed himself."

According to Robbie, Welshmen were often the spine of great Lions sides.

"You think back to the 1974 Lions; to the 1971 Lions that beat New Zealand and that probably was the golden era of Lions rugby, also the golden era of Welsh rugby."

The Welsh team members that have stepped into the team shouldn't weaken the Lions team that narrowly lost 16-15 to the Wallabies in Melbourne.

"Going for broke like this, he's got to have a slightly more expansive role. I think Jonathan Davies has played well. Jamie Roberts is a risk because he has been injured, but he does bring something. He's so big and powerful.

"It could come down to those couple of moments in this test match. He knows his goal kicking is tied up. I admire a coach who backs himself because that's what he's there for."