Schmidt sees life in Brian
Published 03/02/2014 | 07:17
Brian O'Driscoll's ageless defensive exuberance remains a cornerstone of Ireland's RBS 6 Nations power, according to head coach Joe Schmidt.
The former Ireland and British Lions captain's tireless rearguard efforts left him topping the tackle charts for Schmidt's men in Sunday's comfortable 28-6 Scotland dismantling.
Stand-in captain Jamie Heaslip and Schmidt joked O'Driscoll could almost be starting to age in reverse, just like literary character Benjamin Button.
O'Driscoll set a new Ireland all-time caps record of 129 in Sunday's triumph, but the 35-year-old will retire at the end of the season after a glittering career.
Ireland take on reigning champions Wales in Dublin on Saturday, battling against a six-day turnaround and the sheer brute force of Warren Gatland's experienced side.
Former New Zealand schoolteacher Schmidt admitted he will quite happily urge talismanic midfielder O'Driscoll to keep rolling back the years for his final Six Nations.
"If he can hit 24 next week I think we'll get the perfect blend; he's Brian Button now," Schmidt laughed.
"Brian got through his defensive workload pretty effectively, and we knew he would have to.
"He had [Scotland number eight] David Denton coming round the corner, who was a real threat for them.
"I thought he did a fantastic offensive tackle towards the end of the game, where if they'd broken the line they would have been able to have one last shot at us.
"But he took all that time and space away, wrapped the guy up, got to his feet, stole the ball.
"That's the sort of quality he brings, it wasn't just the quality of the tackle, it's the quality of what he did post-tackle that makes him great value.
"By his own standards there were a couple of loose passes, and he'll look to tidy that up.
"But again, he's a player who plays well when he's had a couple of games under his belt. So he'll be a little bit more comfortable again next week.
"You feel a little bit more under pressure to create something when you haven't had a lot of ball.
"It's a fine line balance between taking risks and pushing it too far."
Schmidt was encouraged by Ulsterman Luke Marshall's showing at inside centre in the absence of Gordon D'Arcy, who was slow to recover from a stomach bug.
D'Arcy could reasonably be expected to return to partner O'Driscoll this weekend, and Schmidt admitted Ireland must fight to contain Wales' midfield threats on Saturday.
"Anyone would have their hands full trying to stop Jamie Roberts when he comes on those real strong lines," said Schmidt.
"Scott Williams' passing really adds something there, and if Jonathan Davies is back as reported then Gats has some real options in that midfield.
"I've no doubt Wales will pick themselves up and improve, they are too good not to.
"At the same time we've got to believe we're formidable enough at the Aviva to have a real go at them."
Lions tours have taught number eight Heaslip Wales' much-vaunted power game is by no means overestimated in any quarters.
Expecting a brutal contest on Saturday, Leinster loose-forward Heaslip said: "I've played with some of them on both tours, as athletes they are big guys, they've got some serious athletes there. Some of their backs are bigger than their forwards.
"And some of their forwards are great footballers who get through a lot of work as well, carrying extremely hard.
"Wales play a simple game and do it very well, and if you get the basics right in this game you can thrive."