| 9.9°C Dublin

Gibbes: Drico key to unlock Ulster


Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL is not in the business of making big statements about what he can and can't do. He doesn't have to.

Ulster have beaten Leinster twice in the PRO12 League this season, in Ravenhill (27-19) just before Christmas and at the RDS (22-18) in March.

On both occasions it was noteworthy how Leinster kept trying to kick down the door that was Ulster's defence, instead of picking the lock.

O'Driscoll showed up to the Leinster press conference yesterday with forwards coach Jono Gibbes. The centre did not play in either of those games.

It would have been pointless to ask O'Driscoll if he could have made the difference, now that his back spasm has settled down. The man is far too modest about his magnificence.

Jono, can he make the difference?


Leinster and Ulster know O'Driscoll will bring vision and a skill-set that will far outstrip anything anyone else will offer tomorrow.


It means Ulster eyes will be drawn to him and others will have that extra half-second or half-yard to play off O'Driscoll and make the appropriate incisions.

One of those beneficiaries could be Ian Madigan.

"When he's at 12, he's definitely on a learning curve," said O'Driscoll.

"He brings a good spatial awareness where he identifies things from 10 and just one channel out. He is also a good distributor; strong, not afraid to carry himself.

"He's played twice internationally and both times have been at 12. The good thing about Mads is that he doesn't lack confidence.

"That is one of his real strengths and he has shown this year he is capable of being a game-changer."

Leinster will find very few weaknesses in the Ulster back-three of Jared Payne, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble or Craig Gilroy.

They may have to cut them up in midfield and closer in where Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson, 21, and inside centre Stuart Olding, 20, will have to be wise beyond their years.

The emergence of Olding, the former Ireland U18 Schools fly-half, has been rewarded with promotion to the Ireland senior tour to North America when he would have had his sights set on the U20 World Cup in France.

"I suppose the admiring time will be when you're not involved yourself, when you're playing against him," said O'Driscoll.

"He's (Olding) stepped into those shoes really well, with Paddy Wallace going and then Luke (Marshall) more recently. I think he's stepped up to the plate and he's got an opportunity, going on the summer tour.

"For the weekend, it'll be about trying to impose ourselves on him and giving him something to think about rather than giving too much respect and standing off people."

Former Ireland U20 captain Jackson has had to learn quickly as a player of undoubted potential who was pushed into starting the 2012 Heineken Cup final and for Ireland before he was ready.


"I said during the Six Nations I think Paddy's a really nice footballer," added O'Driscoll.

"He's a threat himself, physically. He might not be huge, but he's a smart footballer.

"His half-back partnership with Ruan (Pienaar) has been big in trying to direct their team around the park and putting a pretty big forward pack in positions where they need to be."