Tuesday 17 September 2019

O'Driscoll hits back at Jones jibe

Former Ireland captain says England coach is trying to divert attention from All Black game with talk that Sexton gets preferential treatment

Jonathan Sexton during the Ireland rugby captains run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton during the Ireland rugby captains run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Brian O'Driscoll has leapt to the defence of former team-mate Jonathan Sexton after the latest jibe from English coach Eddie Jones reignited his ongoing criticism of the Irish out-half.

Jones claimed this week that Sexton receives more protection from referees than English No 10 Owen Farrell, despite the latter being lucky to escape sanction after a late, high tackle in the final minute of their win against South Africa.

However, O'Driscoll believes Jones's comments are being deployed as a sideshow to divert attention away from England's clash with New Zealand today, where a defeat could pile more pressure on the under-fire coach.

"It's throwing the banger over in that direction to take attention away from what is the mainstay point," said O'Driscoll. "Here we're talking about it, rather than the actual point, which is who's going to win the match. It's a side-plot to the bigger theme of what's more important, the game on Saturday.

"Do I think Johnny Sexton's more protected than Owen Farrell? Farrell throws it around a lot more than Johnny Sexton, so maybe from that perspective there's less sympathy when he cops a late one, because he's prone to the odd loose one himself, as the end of the South Africa game showed.

"Johnny doesn't need protecting. But I think as well that Johnny, even more so than Owen Farrell, Johnny takes the ball to the line and encourages those shots, because they are marginal, a lot of them.

"So if he throws it half a second away from the contact and someone still follows through, it's a call for the referee to make.

"Sometimes he'll accept the one he throws right on the line, he gets right after he releases it, but that's fair game. But now we're talking about it so much, we're achieving exactly what Eddie was hoping for!"

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Meanwhile, Ireland captain Rory Best says Joe Schmidt's legacy will endure long after his departure - though he hopes the Kiwi decides to stay for a few more years.

The Ireland head coach will announce a decision on his future beyond next year's World Cup at the end of the November internationals but even if he chooses to leave the position his captain believes there is enough talent within the set-up for the success he has enjoyed to continue.

"He is one of the best coaches in the world," said the Ulster hooker, who will lead his side for the first time since the Grand Slam win against England in this evening's match against Argentina (6.30).

"In my opinion he's one of the best coaches in the world. So that's who you want in charge of the national team.

"But he has got to do what's right for him, and if that is a change then his legacy will go on longer than just the silverware that sits in trophy cabinets."

That legacy will include potential replacements should Schmidt decide to quit.

"When you look at our coaching staff there is that option of replacing from within, massively. Those guys take a lot, Simon Easterby and Andy Farrell took a lot of the preparation last week in Chicago and you saw what happened. Simon has been a head coach at Scarlets. Andy has coached at Saracens who aren't bad and he has coached with England."

Irish Independent

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