The original version of this article appeared in the Irish Independent on Saturday July 6th 2013, and online at independent.ie
Brian O’Driscoll and the Lions – how the world reacted online.
When Warren Gatland made the announcement Brian O’Driscoll was being dropped not just from the starting 15 but from the squad of 23 for the decisive final test match against Australia, few could have predicted the response of the media and fans online. The story captured the interest of not only an Irish and Australian audience; it was covered in detail across the globe.
In the 48 hours following the announcement, more than 2,300 articles were published in over 600 news sources across 30 countries. Depending on the result in the final test, and the performance of the midfield in particular, these numbers could increase significantly.
The UK and Australian media lead the way in terms of volume of coverage, with New Zealand, Ireland and the US completing the top five. It should be noted that the media reaction has not been universally against the decision. Some have lauded Gatland’s decision as brave, while others have bemoaned the fact more Wales player were not picked. However, the majority of editorial coverage has questioned the choice of the Lions selectors.
To put the levels of coverage in context, when Declan Kidney announced in January that Jamie Heaslip was taking over as captain of the Irish rugby team for the Six Nations, it was a talking point for the media and fans alike, but on the day of the announcement, fewer than 200 articles were published online in relation to the story. It was another captaincy related story that led to the biggest spike in editorial coverage for O’Driscoll in 2013, prior to Wednesday’s announcement. On June 9th, when he was named as captain for the second time in a week on tour, he was mentioned in more than 900 articles online. Neither story, however, came close to matching the coverage of Gatland’s announcement earlier this week.
Despite the high volume of online news media coverage, it was social media where the most vocal reaction was heard. Not unlike the Thierry Henry handball incident, sports fans in Ireland felt aggrieved at Warren Gatland’s decision, and took to social media to vent their anger.
At 1pm on Wednesday July 3rd, a Justice for BOD Facebook page was set up. Within 48 hours it had over 125,000 likes.
O’Driscoll has over 330,000 followers on Twitter, and he took to the social network to comment on the decision:
Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through. #seaofred
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) July 3, 2013
Twitter was also the medium of choice for several other past and current starts of world rugby. Dan Carter – the All Blacks out half and arguably one of the most recognisable players in the world had his say:
— Dan Carter (@DanCarter) July 3, 2013
His tweet was retweeted over 10,000 times, and favourite by almost 3,000 people. After seeing the huge response to his Tweet, he took a photo of it and posted it to Instagram with the caption:
That photo has been liked over 4,500 times on Instagram.