O'Driscoll loses Ireland captaincy
Rugby:Brian O’Driscoll will not lead Ireland in the forthcoming Six Nations after coach Declan Kidney elected to retain his Leinster teammate Jamie Heaslip for the tournament. O’Driscoll has said he is “very disappointed” to lose the captaincy but accepts the decision as Kidney wants him to focus on regaining his full fitness after of his recent ankle injury.
Kidney announced the news as he named an extended 39-man training squad for the Six Nations and the Ireland Wolfhounds match against the England Saxons next Friday.
“Jamie had done a really good job for the squad and management during November and I felt that now was the correct time to do this,” Kidney said of the captaincy. “Brian has had very little rugby in the last number of months and I think he deserves the space and time to concentrate on getting himself back playing fully fit.
“We need Brian the player just as much as we need Brian the captain and typical of the man and the selfless way he has contributed to Irish rugby and the Ireland team, he has said that the captain and the team would have his full support.”
O’Driscoll, who is likely to line out for the Wolfhounds tomorrow week, has been captain since Keith Wood retired in 2003. He has led his country on 83 occasions but with Ireland now in the middle of a World Cup cycle has supported the decision to give the role to Heaslip.
“The captaincy has been a big part of my career and life over the last number of years, and while I was naturally very disappointed not to be leading the team in the Six Nations, when I talked it through with Declan I accepted the reasons behind the decision,” he said today. “I've always known that the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was most likely a bridge too far for me, so at some point a player, who will most likely be there for the tournament, needs to build that captaincy experience.
“Jamie will do a fantastic job and along with the other senior players in the leadership group, I will be giving him all of the support that he needs.”
There are six uncapped players in Kidney’s squad with the coach expected to make further additions after this weekend’s final pool matches in the Heineken Cup. Both squads will train together in the Ireland training base in Carton House, with a Wolfhounds squad selected later next week. After the Wolfhounds game, a shortened training squad will be selected for Ireland’s opening Six Nations game in Wales on February 2nd.
Stephen Ferris has not been included at this stage due to injury but the Irish management are hopeful of having him available in the latter stages of the tournament. However, Paul O’Connell will play no part whatsoever as he recovers from the back operation he underwent earlier this month.
Of the six uncapped players, the name of Lewis Stevenson will be most unfamiliar to Irish supporters. The second row has been on Ulster’s books since 2005, having graduated from their academy, but despite making 37 appearances for the province has always been on the fringes. Ulster’s Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall are also included, as are Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry and Leinster’s Ian Madigan.
Ireland training squad (*denotes uncapped player):Michael Bent (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Isaac Boss (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Seán Cronin (Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, capt), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht)*, Paddy Jackson (Ulster)*, Rob Kearney (Leinster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Ian Madigan (Leinster)*, Paul Marshall (Ulster)*, Conor Murray (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Dave McSharry (Connacht/)*, Seán O'Brien (Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Lewis Stevenson (Ulster)*, Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).
Not available due to injury:Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), John Muldoon (Connacht), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster/5)