Friday 26 May 2017

O'Driscoll hails Schmidt influence

Shane Jennings and Brian O'Driscoll with (from left) Sophie Quinn, Lia Quinn and Ella Quinn at yesterday's announcement that Leinster will play Munster and Clermont at Aviva Stadium this season. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Shane Jennings and Brian O'Driscoll with (from left) Sophie Quinn, Lia Quinn and Ella Quinn at yesterday's announcement that Leinster will play Munster and Clermont at Aviva Stadium this season. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL says that his summer wedding "seems like an eternity ago".

Now back to work, the Irish captain has spent the last few weeks delving headlong into a working relationship with new Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

A new voice and new ideas will refresh and, he hopes, renew last season's Heineken Cup semi-finalists and Magners League finalists.

"He's been great," enthuses a relaxed O'Driscoll, who may not feature for Leinster until the first of only two matches they are scheduled to play in the Aviva Stadium this season -- the October 2 Magners League clash against Munster.

"Joe has been very easy-going. He obviously has his own ideas on how the game should be played and it's nice to hear a different voice. As fantastic as Michael Cheika was, the change is probably a good thing for the squad.

"A new man is coming in, throwing new ideas at us, challenging us in different ways and that's important. If you've played a long time, you need to be continually challenged.

"I don't know anyone who is the complete player or anyone who knows it all. You need to continue to keep learning until the day you retire."

Given the high-profile departures of Kurt McQuilkin and Alan Gaffney from Leinster's coaching roster, Schmidt's innovative approach as a former backs specialist with Clermont -- belatedly crowned French champions last season -- will prove pivotal for O'Driscoll and his talented team-mates.

"I'm really looking forward to that, even some of the small things he's been talking to us about," he adds.

"He puts a lot of emphasis on you making your own decisions, so it's not a case of spoon-feeding you. He's a thinking player's man.

"He definitely challenges you and it's something we as a back line are looking forward to working on."

O'Driscoll acknowledges that retaining his fitness after a worrying slew of recent hamstring and knee troubles will be key to prolonging his form as the long-term build-up to Rugby World Cup 2011 kicks in.

"It's important not to have any interruptions," he says.

"Looking back on the Grand Slam and Heineken Cup-winning year, I was very fortunate that I didn't have any knocks. I had a little bit of a knee thing which kept me out for a few weeks, but that was really it.

"It helps not having those absences because you can maintain that form and keep as fresh as possible. We're not playing too many games, so I think the balance is right between national and provincial.

"You leave it up to the fitness guys to look after you as best as possible and whatever else you can do, all the better."

Leinster will also play their December 18 Heineken Cup match against Clermont at the Aviva Stadium, with ticket prices starting at €30.

Luke Fitzgerald and Sean O'Brien, meanwhile, are likely to make their return from injury in an RDS friendly against Wasps, on Friday (7.0).

Irish Independent

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