Opinion: The Lions needed Dylan Hartley to have any chance against All Blacks

OPINION: Warren Gatland may have stayed true to his guns by leaving Dylan Hartley out of his side, but staying true to your guns; whilst it may be a key ingredient of an integrity-filled coach, does not win you matches or series against the world champions on New Zealand territory.

If Gatland was going to have a real shot at coaching the Lions to their first series win over New Zealand since 1971, the 31-year-old had to be a part of the team.

The fiery hooker isn't the best in the game and he wouldn't have instilled any particular fear into the All Blacks. But he found rugby and developed as a player in this very soil and has the fire and brimstone so desperately missing from northern hemisphere teams at times.

He's got the dangerous unpredictability as a player that can spur a team on to a win like the one achieved by England against them in 2013.

His inclusion would have sent a message of real menace to the All Blacks: 'I've selected my best players, we're coming to get you.'

But instead of championing controlled aggression, Gatland wandered into the trap that will see the Lions fall to another three-nil series loss amidst a pool of 'pleases', 'thank yous' and the all-conquering, enduring-at-all-costs 'Warren ball'.

Unfortunately for the Rotorua-born forward, the dangerous unpredictability that's seen him excel under England coach Eddie Jones is the same feature of his game that has seen him rendered unwanted twice now by Lions' selectors.

It's the same recklessness that has seen him suspended for a whopping total of 60 weeks.

While Gatland might say it was 'this, that and the other thing' that led to his omission, the reality is that at one point in the last six months, he would have looked himself in the mirror and asked whether he could rely on Hartley in the team's deepest time of need.

To which is now clear, the answer was no.

Matt Tewhatu is a digital producer for Newshub.