Saturday 10 December 2016

Brian O’Driscoll: I picked my moments to challenge Joe Schmidt

Published 08/01/2016 | 20:32

Brian O’Driscoll has welcomed the addition of Andy Farrell to the Ireland coaching team and believes the rugby league legend will challenge head coach Joe Schmidt.

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Farrell was not kept on by the new England coach Eddie Jones when the Australian took over from Stuart Lancaster after their disastrous home World Cup campaign.

Schmidt has been on the look-out for a new defence coach since Les Kiss left his position to take over as Ulster's director of rugby after the tournament and has opted to appoint the 40-year-old who has worked with a number of Ireland's senior players during the 2013 Lions series victory over Australia.

Farrell will not join Schmidt's team until after the Six Nations and his first involvement will be on the three-Test tour of South Africa in June, O’Driscoll says he is excited by the appointment and believes it will greatly strengthen the coaching ticket.

“I don’t know what kind of coach Simon Easterby is, I haven’t been coached by him, and with the greatest of respect to Richie Murphy and Greg Feek, they are not people that would be confrontational to Joe’s way of thinking,” O’Driscoll told Newstalk’s Off The Ball programme tonight.

“I think having a strong character like Farrell coming in will be really good for Joe and the other coaches, and for the players too, to see them argue out points and not only have it as the ‘Joe way’ and the ‘Joe show’”.

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell

The Irish rugby legend fostered a close working relationship with Schmidt at both provincial and international level and admits he only ever questioned the coach when he felt he when he had a strong case to put forward.

“I picked my moments. I knew that I had to be 85/90pc right in my thoughts and in my thinking of what ideas I wanted to get across if I wanted to challenge a concept he had come up with," he told listeners.

“I would always make sure that if I did have a point, that I wanted to challenge with him that there was a fair bit of theory and substance behind in what I was thinking.

“There’s a little bit of the school teacher that you are a small but afraid of and it still remains the same. I meet him every so often and I’d still be a small bit on edge, making sure I have all my ducks in a row and know what I’m talking about.”

Farrell’s presence on the successful Lions tour to Australia gave O’Driscoll an inside to Farrell’s defensive philosophies and Ireland’s record try-scorer has praised Schmidt for not taking an easy option in replacing Les Kiss.

“It’s his [Joe] strength that he has such a strong belief in what he is talking about and trying to implement with the team, but at the same time you can blind yourself a small bit if you don’t allow another opinion coming in where it can actually help you,” he said.

“That’s why I do think Farrell coming in, being a strong individual, will be a real asset to Joe. It’s not “safe” for Joe, which I really like. He could have gone with someone who might be a little bit of a “yes” man.

“Joe does still like to control things, but when you have a strong character come in, it gives Farrell an opportunity to take control of the defence a lot more and take it away from Joe.”

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