O'Driscoll losing the captaincy isn't the end of the world; we should trust Kidney's decision
From The Blindside:Declan Kidney has always had a great way of surprising people. Like everybody else, the news that Brian O’Driscoll was being stood down as Ireland captain for the Six Nations shocked me the first time I heard it. The idea that he wouldn’t have just captained another campaign, possibly his last one, just hadn’t occurred to me. I hadn’t given it even a minute’s thought. I just presumed he would stay on.
Yet the more I’ve thought about it over the weekend, the more I can see some of Declan’s way of thinking. It’s not as if there aren’t valid reasons behind his decision. Brian is coming off the back of another injury and he hasn’t played very much over the winter. Ireland did well against Argentina in November without him and showed that they can move into the future without needing him to come to their rescue at every turn.
When you reason it out, it’s not the end of the world.
I played with Brian for a long time and had him as captain for nearly half the games I played for Ireland. He’s a very proud guy and I have no doubt this will have hurt him. Personally, I would have liked to have seen him finish out his Ireland career the way he wanted. If anybody deserved to call his own way out, Brian did. But a coach has to to live or die by his decisions. Just because this one came as a shock doesn’t make it wrong.
Brian was captaincy material from the start. I was in Ireland squads with him from 1999 onwards and even from before he was given the role, there was a sense of standards about the way he did everything. It seems strange to even think it now, but it came as a surprise to some people when Eddie O’Sullivan made him captain for the first time in 2002. He was still only 23 at the time and there were fellas in the squad who were a lot more experienced and who had captained Ireland before.
But he took to it like a duck to water. I felt at the time that it was something he wanted, not just something he hoped to do at some stage down the road. He wanted to be Ireland captain, he was driven to have success. Eddie made him captain initially when Keith Wood was injured and then gave it to him full-time when Woody retired.
I thought it was a shrewd move by Eddie, giving him a taste of it so that he could take it on when the time came. I know Declan has said that this isn’t his motivation for making Jamie Heaslip captain now but you can see the similarities.
Nothing about being captain fazed Brian. He loved the responsibility, he was very natural with the media and he enjoyed the idea of it being on his shoulders to go out and set standards for everybody else. It’s his way to keep pushing and improving and to keep delivering performances. People talk a lot about captains setting example – well, that was the way Brian treated captaincy. Never stop trying to get better, never take a performance for granted.