Brian O’Driscoll wants his successor to be an inside man
Centre confident well-stocked Leinster can replace him
Noel Reid and Brendan Macken: two of the younger players who will come into consideration to fill the Leinster number 13 jersey. Photograph: Inpho.
Brian O’Driscoll’s view on his, as yet uncrowned, successor to the number 13 jersey is simple: keep it in the bloodline. Leo Cullen’s take on it, while equally succinct, is more insightful: there are enough children besotted by rugby nowadays, mainly due to O’Driscoll, to ensure there won’t be a bridge of 40 years to the next magician in an Irish backline.
“You can’t coach what that guy has,” said Cullen at the duo’s “Long goodbye” press conference yesterday in UCD.
“At the Leinster awards on Saturday, watching the reels [O’Driscoll’s finest moments], like some of the stuff he does, he didn’t learn that from any coach I have come across. It’s just instinctive brilliance. I don’t know if you will see someone like that again.”
Cullen would know, as they were for the most part coached by the same men since being a year apart in Willow Park primary school.
“It’s hard because players do get so much coaching you wonder does that get coached out of them to a certain degree but, listen, there are so many young kids playing the game now, which is the exciting thing, a helluva a lot more than there was, so we are going to get more talent coming through.
“As a numbers game hopefully it won’t take quite as long from the Jackie Kyle to Brian O’Driscoll gap. We might have to only wait 10 years before the next one.”
Considering Munster have signed Andrew Smith, thereby, under IRFU guidelines, ruling out the option of Leinster signing a foreign centre, it looks certain to be between Zane Kirchner, Gordon D’Arcy (with Noel Reid playing 12), Brendan Macken, Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald to fill the boots of the greatest come next September.
From an Irish context, throw Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne and possibly Keith Earls into the holding cell with Darren Cave deserving a mention should in the event of an injury crisis.
“I think we have the capabilities here,” said O’Driscoll of the Leinster squad. “Throughout this season there seems to have always been one back injured and, as a result, we haven’t had to make too many hard calls.
“That juggling around with Zane having played for South Africa at 13, Lukey is still to come back into the fold properly, Ferg can play at 13, Darce obviously plays 13. There are young lads, Macken has played there for the last year, so there is absolutely scope to work from within. I don’t think there is any necessity to go outside.”
Incidentally, Kirchner’s only game at outside centre for the Springboks was at Lansdowne road in November 2010 when his opposite number was O’Driscoll.
“But definitely there is a fine line between trying to nurture creative brilliance,” Cullen added.
“The stuff that Brian has in abundance as well is that competitive instinct. That, as coaches, is something we can drive.”
It’s Coach Cullen now, as he succeeds Jonno Gibbes as overseer of the Leinster pack, but really it’s a role he has filled, if not in name, since returning from Leicester in 2007.
But that’s another story.