BRIAN O’Driscoll has been dropped from the Lions squad for their third and final test against Australia on Saturday.
The Leinster centre, who was in pole position to replace the injured Sam Warburton as captain, said he was “totally gutted” by the shock omission.
Lions coach Warren Gatland has made six changes to the team beaten 16-15 in Melbourne last weekend, with the introduction of Welsh centre Jamie Roberts in place of O’Driscoll.
Gatland, a former coach of Wales, has included a record-equalling 10 Welshmen in The Lions’ starting XV, along with three Irishmen – Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Sexton and Sean O’Brien – and two English players.
O’Driscoll, 34, was widely expected to replace Warburton as skipper, in what would have been the Irishman’s final game in a Lions jersey.
O’Driscoll has led international sides on a world-record 84 times, including in 83 of his 125 Tests for Ireland, as well as the first Lions Test in New Zealand in 2005 and six other Lions tour matches in four series.
O’Driscoll reacted to the news on Twitter, writing: “Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through.”
Warren Gatland said it was the first time a coach had dropped O’Driscoll in “15 years of rugby”.
“It’s not easy for that to be the first time but he is still going to be very important for us in the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership,” he added.