Brian O’Driscoll says Ulster captain Iain Henderson will be left with a “sickening feeling” after missing out on test caps for a second successive tour with the British and Irish Lions.
Henderson, who was overlooked for the tourists’ two previous showdowns with the Springboks this summer, isn’t in Warren Gatland’s squad for Saturday’s deciding test in Cape Town.
The 29-year-old suffered a similar disappointment in the drawn tour to New Zealand in 2017 when he made six appearances, but didn’t feature in all three tests with the All Blacks.
It means Henderson has now made 10 appearances on two tours with the Lions, but has yet to play in six test outings, prompting O’Driscoll to suggest the 29-year-old isn’t “Gat’s player”.
Speaking on Off The Ball, the former Ireland captain said there were “plenty of other guys, the eight unused players in the squad, particularly Iain Henderson” who would feel hard done by.
“When Alun Wyn Jones got injured and dislocated his shoulder in the Japan game (he) would probably have been earmarked as a test starter,” said O’Driscoll.
“For him to get no test minutes again must be pretty sickening, because again he didn’t do a whole lot wrong any time he put the jersey on in this tour.
“But sometimes a coach just has an eye for you and likes what you do and obviously he’s watching a lot more of training as well as just in games.
“But you know, it does feel as though Iain Henderson just doesn’t seem to be Gat’s player.”
Gatland, who was also head coach four years ago, made sweeping changes to his panel in the wake of last Saturday’s dispiriting 27-9 defeat to South Africa at the Cape Town stadium.
(Image: MIKE HEWITT/GETTY IMAGES)
But once again, Henderson will watch on from the stands, with Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje starting in the second row and Adam Beard of Wales offering cover on the bench.
Four Irish players start against the Springboks on Saturday – prop Tadhg Furlong, No8 Jack Conan and centre pairing Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw.
Experienced Munster scrum-half Conor Murray starts on the bench.
Like Henderson, Munster forward Tadhg Beirne, who got minutes off the bench in the first two tests against South Africa, was omitted from the 23-man matchday squad.