O’Driscoll gives Schmidt strong endorsement ahead of IRFU decision

‘I probably learned more in those three years than I did from any other coach in the previous 10’

Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll and Joe Schmidt celebrate after winning last season’s Heineken Cup final at Twickenham. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll and Joe Schmidt celebrate after winning last season’s Heineken Cup final at Twickenham. Photograph: Inpho

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 01:00

In the world of the semaphore Brian O’Driscoll went megaphone. Yesterday’s amble around the thoughts of the Irish centre may have touched on tip tackles, Biarritz and future Leinster coaches and O’Driscoll was skilfully diplomatic throughout.

But on the issue of Joe Schmidt taking up office at Lansdowne Road, he could not have delivered a stronger endorsement as the IRFU continue to mull over who will replace Declan Kidney. O’Driscoll’s opinion of the Leinster coach since he arrived in Dublin is “pretty high”, he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed my last three years under him. I think I’ve learned a huge amount. I probably learned more in those three years than I did from any other coach in the previous 10, so I look forward to coming in and hearing what he has to say.”

Last 10 years could in some circumstances be construed as a figure plucked out of the sky but not from O’Driscoll. Quite a shout out for Schmidt.

“He (Schmidt) was one of the three candidates. Is he outstanding? I don’t really know the other guys so it would be unfair for me to comment on their qualities,” added O’Driscoll. “But I do know his qualities and they are plentiful.”

Keith Wood was asked to sit in on the interview process, O’Driscoll was not and while he seemed mildly surprised by being asked if the IRFU had canvassed his opinion, he need not have been.

The IRFU and Leinster know there is more riding on their decision than a name beside the Irish coaching position as the 34-year-old’s future is still uncertain. He has given himself until July to decide and the union has respected that. While the Senate often ignored its Tribunes, it’s the magistrates in the IRFU who will have to ask themselves whether the Schmidt ticket might carry O’Driscoll into a more certain frame of mind about playing for another year.

“Maybe that is a factor in things for sure, but there is more to it than that,” he concedes. “I’ll think about all the things in the summer. It will be a factor, depending on who comes in.”


Evolving game
Bringing in Wood to the interview process was a good move, he believes. The former Ireland captain and hooker has not lost the connection and feel for an evolving game.

“It was smart from the point of view that he is in touch with the professional game,” said O’Driscoll. “I would speak to Woody on occasion and he still understands the nuances and how it has evolved over this last decade since his retirement.

“He is very pro Ireland. He is certainly in no shape, or form, bitter about the success some of the guys managed to achieve. There is no bitterness at all and that is the sort of guy you want on any committee.”

What will have raised an eyebrow is that there was no citing announced from the Pro 12 citing commissioner, who viewed Leinster’s game against Zebre on Sunday. O’Driscoll was tackled without the ball and tipped onto the ground by Mauro Bergamasco. He reacted angrily but as in the case with Paul O’Connell and Dave Kearney, the referee did not intervene.

“It wasn’t the sort of tackle you would hope to be involved in but you have to put your faith in the officials. No, it wasn’t the finest bit of play,” he said.

“No, there is no comparing and contrasting in those things,” he added when the Kearney kick was introduced. “But I was definitely a bit annoyed about it, to be sure.”