Monday 24 October 2016

O'Connor was too much of a mate - Jennings

Tom Rooney

Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor's affable nature may have contributed to his ultimate downfall at Leinster, according to Shane Jennings.

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While the Aussie was far from a fan favourite due to a perceived insipid brand of rugby employed during his two years in charge, Jennings claims he was well-liked among the players, perhaps too much so.

"One of the things that probably let him down is that he was a genuinely nice guy and was a bit of a mate to all the players but, in the end, that doesn't help anybody," Jennings said.

"We'd rather somebody that's probably not as good a mate to us, but he's going to drive us on and make us win things."

However, the recently-retired flanker believes that O'Connor was saddled with unreal expectations in the wake of the unprecedented success enjoyed by his predecessor, Joe Schmidt. Furthermore, that direct comparisons to Schmidt were both unfair and out of context.

"It's not apples for apples, because there is a completely different playing population, there's aging players there that weren't when Joe was there. Joe had them at their peak, and had a foundation that was put in by Michael Cheika, and then Joe kicked us on 100pc with his technical ability.

"But then, when Matt got a lot of the players they were aging and beat up to a certain degree. And there was a transition from Joe's era to that, and it's very hard to come in when Joe has won so many trophies and people say, 'Why haven't you won these trophies'," he said.

Jennings played a key role as Leinster amassed an incredible haul of silverware under Schmidt, and Michael Cheika before him, and he empathises with those fans who were became disillusioned during O'Connor's tenure. Yet, in his first season in charge, he did oversee the Blues' retention of the Pro12, and then guided them to a Champions Cup semi-final. Regardless, Jennings reckons stepping out of Schmidt's shadow may have been a fool's errand.

"It's hard as a supporter because you get used to it. Years of successes are very enjoyable for players and supporters, and the whole organisation kicked on from it. There were great days, but was it fair to criticise Matt by saying, 'Joe did it, why can't you do it?'"

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