herald

Monday 18 December 2017

eyeon the horizon

BOD's commitment to broadcasting takes him away from coaching

"I won't be there for the first game of the season at The RDS," he said.

The end of Brian O'Driscoll's rugby play-days neatly coincide with a broadcasting career already seated in the studios of Newstalk radio and shortly to begin at the cross-channel haven of BT Sport for the 
Rugby Champions Cup.

"I will always be a supporter of Leinster even throughout my new roles in punditry. It is very hard to put in 15 years of rugby with one club and switch off and not be passionate about it.

"At the same time, I have other interests in my life. Radio and television are two of them. It is not going to consume me, that's for sure."

The recent announcement of BT Sport's capture of O'Driscoll as an analyst surely moves him further away from the prospective role of a coach at his province, in his country.

There will remain an umbilical link to Leinster should his experience be needed by coaches and players. He will be available as a sounding board.

Nothing more.

"There could be an opportunity for me to be able to throw in a tuppence worth if someone asks for it, if (Leinster head coach) Matt (O'Connor) thought I could give one or two players a steer in the right direction," he added.

"There will be no formal role there. I will be on the end of the phone to talk through something I may have picked up on having watched a game. That will really be it."

Of the eight recently announced recruits to Year 1 of the Leinster Academy, there are two specialist outside centres (Garry Ringrose & Rory O'Loughlin), another one in the second-year class (Tom Farrell) and another just awarded his first senior contract (Collie O'Shea).

"That is largely my area of expertise," O'Driscoll stated.

"Being able to be specific to a position, Leinster look as though we have some good strength coming through.

"Someone like Collie O'Shea, if he can steer clear of the injuries that have hampered his career, has huge potential going forward. He is a very nice player, one that I have trained against a lot over the last year-and-a-half".

O'Driscoll was loathed to burden O'Shea by a mirror-image comparison. There are more similarities than differences in what one brought and what the other could bring to the game.

"I am never one to compare like-for-like. Players have similar attributes. I would certainly not put Collie and myself in the same category for a number of reasons," he shared.

"He is definitely his own player. He does some things better than I did and, maybe, there are a few things I did a little better than he does at the moment.

"He certainly won't go out to emulate anyone other than himself."

The list of candidates to step into O'Driscoll's boots is long and impressive.

However, Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald have been more commonly used on the wing, while Brendan Macken is making steady progress.

This is why a dark horse could just appear over the Dublin horizon with O'Shea, Farrell, Ringrose and O'Loughlin all set to mount a challenge in the next season or two.

"There is more talent bubbling underneath. Garry Ringrose had a big World Cup with the Under-20s, got nominated for Player of the Year there.

"He is definitely one to watch. I've also trained against him in the Six Nations and he certainly caught the eye."

The British Medical Journal reported last week that the introduction of the pitch-side concussion assessment last season resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of players allowed to return to play when later diagnosed with concussion.

"It is massively important. Concussion has been an issue in our game for the last couple of years," O'Driscoll said.

"The steps are being put in place to provide the best possible care for players.

"It has been closely scrutinised and concussed players have been prevented from returning to the field of play.

"I had one of those incidents myself in the All Black game. They were absolutely right not to allow me back on. Players aren't thinking clearly after one those blows.

"Adrenalin is high. You have to put your faith in the medical team to make those sorts of calls in really high-octane situations. That's what they are trained to do.

"You mightn't thank them for it immediately. But, they are looking out for you well-being. Certainly, in my case, I was very thankful for it afterwards."

Ireland will move on with a new forwards coach, O'Driscoll's former Ireland team-mate Simon Easterby.

"I think it is a great move," he reviewed.

"First and foremost, he has got a brilliant attitude. He was always a brilliant 'thinker' on the game.

"He was a good man to read a phase ahead and understand how the game was evolving play-by-play.

"Marrying that with a big appetite for detail and a hard work ethic, he fits exactly into the mould of what Joe Schmidt, Paul O'Connell and the forwards will be looking for leading into the World Cup."

Back on the club platform, the financial reality of the Irish provinces means they cannot just go out and buy who and where they like. They have to build from within.

Is it going to become more difficult for the Irish provinces to compete with the immediate spending power of French and English clubs in The Rugby Champions Cup?

"I don't know," considered O'Driscoll.

"If the financial flow into French clubs continues, they will be able to build big squads. The bigger and deeper the squad, the more dominant position you would appear to be in.

"It is going to be a very tough competition with the teams reduced from 24 to 20. The pools look very competitive. It will be a job to even get out of them.

"It's different. But, it's the same. It would appear to be more difficult to win because the standard of the competition is that bit higher. But, I don't think that will detract from the Heineken Cups of the past."

Great competitions, like great players, live forever in the memory.

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