Leinster boss gives backing to O'Driscoll and D'Arcy midfield axis
Joe Schmidt has no concerns on the continuing partnership of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, despite the malfunction that led to France's try at the Aviva Stadium last week.
The Leinster coach is back on domestic duty ahead of Friday's Magners League clash with Treviso, but it doesn't take long before conversation drifts back to the Six Nations at this time of the year.
The New Zealander is keen not to pose as an expert on the Irish set-up, but as coach of Ireland's form team, his opinions on the international game are worth hearing.
Schmidt does not believe that the try that saw Aurelien Rougerie burst through D'Arcy's tackle before putting Maxime Medard over in the corner arose from something the French star encountered during Leinster's matches with Clermont-Auvergne in the Heineken Cup in December.
Rather, he says, it was an individual mistake that is not cause for general concern.
The two Leinster and Ireland centres have come under fire, with D'Arcy criticised for missing the one-on-one tackle and O'Driscoll for having left him isolated.
But Schmidt insists that's not a systematic problem.
"You can leave (D'Arcy) isolated because he is such a good defender -- usually," he said.
"He can pick two guys up very quickly. He was holding on (Damien) Traille and then breaking to Aurelien, and the relationship between D'Arce and O'Driscoll is that they are pretty good working together no matter what sort of a system it is.
"It's just that when you are trying to play a push defence, it is hard to get your feet close enough to really get a good shoulder and grip on a big guy like Aurelien.
"The two tries that were scored (by Clermont in the Heineken Cup) weren't really scored through the centre in the first game, and then the second game was a driven maul that they punched off close in, so I don't think they made any breaks through the centre. I didn't see a link."
Meanwhile, the prospect of Connacht winger Fionn Carr following Jamie Hagan and Sean Cronin from the Sportsground to the RDS next season remains up in the air.
Schmidt said there "might be an opportunity" to bring him in, while he praised the wing as being "the calibre of player we would like to have" and a "Leinster player".
But he warned the likes of Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney's impressive form might squeeze Carr out of the reckoning.