Tuesday 25 October 2016

O'Driscoll could yet play World Cup-winning role


Published 15/05/2015 | 02:30

O’Driscoll: Likely to hold the key
O’Driscoll: Likely to hold the key

When Brian O'Driscoll decided to retire, his biggest regret was that he never got the opportunity to help deliver a World Cup for his country.

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He may still get the chance.

Ireland's most iconic on-field warrior of the professional age will now have the opportunity to demonstrate those same reserves of determination and spirit that will undoubtedly need to be mined to advance his country's bid to host the 2023 World Cup.

A day after their successful coup in landing the 2017 Women's World Cup, the IRFU named their side to spearhead their attempt to land the big one six years later.

O'Driscoll may not be the official captain of this particular team. But the man who led his country more times - 83 - than any other player in world rugby during his glittering career will clearly be its most public and persuasive focal point.

However, a captain is only as good as the players he is leading and the one chosen by the IRFU, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive is a pretty formidable outfit.

The nominal "captain", so to speak, Dick Spring - his official title is chairman of the Board - brings to the table a wealth of experience in the business of political wheeling and dealing both at home, north and south, and abroad.

His time spent in Foreign Affairs will be a handy asset and, while the late, lamented Moss Keane may have once denigrated his playing ability with a memorable put-down many, many moons ago, his rugby experience - he did, after all, play for both Munster and Ireland - cannot be gainsaid. He also wore of the green and gold of Kerry and, acknowledging the indispensable co-operation of the GAA, the extremely capable Páraic Duffy, its director-general, will become one of the board members.

The IRFU represents a 32-county sport and is presenting an all-Ireland bid - hence the presence of Ulster's industrious CEO Shane Logan.

However, diplomatic glad-handing and the demonstration of undoubted sporting prowess of themselves will not be enough to convince World Rugby when the tenders are officially delivered next June - a hard-nosed business edge needs to be brought to bear.

Dr David Dobbin, group chief executive of Dale Farm and chairman of the Management Committee of the Ulster Branch IRFU, will thus prove to be a vital addition as vice-chairman of the Board.

Further appointments, including individuals with sporting, business and major events experience, will be added imminently.

As announced in March, the 2023 bid winners will be selected in May 2017 following a phased process.

So far South Africa, Italy and France have also announced their interest and Ireland's bid is not the favourite. Not yet, in any event.

Hugo MacNeill, the former Ireland full-back, remains the safe pair of hands on the Board - he worked so hard to prove that this bid was viable in the first place and it is fitting that he remains to, he will sincerely hope, finish the game with the right result.

With O'Driscoll in the side, the chances of celebrating when the final whistle eventually blows are always better.

Irish Independent

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