Monday 22 January 2018

Brian O'Driscoll explains why Garry Ringrose should be excited but he fears for Leinster against Clermont

Garry Ringrose could be able to exploit Aurélien Rougerie's lack of pace, according to Brian O'Driscoll (inset)
Garry Ringrose could be able to exploit Aurélien Rougerie's lack of pace, according to Brian O'Driscoll (inset) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Three-time European Cup winner Brian O'Driscoll believes Leinster will be right up against it when they visit the Stade Gerland on Sunday to take on French giants Clermont in their Champions Cup semi-final

News that Sean O'Brien has been added to the Leinster absentee list alongside Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Dave Kearney and Jamie Heaslip has added the daunting task facing Leo Cullen's men.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk this evening, O'Driscoll admitted to being fearful about how Leinster's depleted forward division will deal with the sheer size of the Clermont pack.

"It looks significantly tougher with no Sean O'Brien on the teamsheet, I must say," he said

"If you compare the two packs. They've had a monstrous pack for a number of years but they are really in sync with the rest of their game, with the fast free-flowing game that they're playing.

"I just look at (Arthur) Iturria and (Sébastien) Vahaamahina in the second row against Devin Toner and (Hayden) Triggs and you look at that back row of (Rhys) Ruddock, (Dan) Leavy and (Jack) Conan versus (Peceli) Yato, (Damien) Chouly and (Fritz) Lee. I just get the sense that we're going to have to play a fast game.

"I hope it's a dry day. We're going to have to move them but at the same time, Clermont are a fit team unlike their French counterparts.

"I don't think either bench is overly inspiring. I don't think you have many gamechangers so you are going to have to get a big output from that first XV.

"Lineout and scrum is going to be vital.

"I think it could be a high-scoring game because there is no doubt that Clermont will create tryscoring opportunities themselves.

"You are looking at the guys that normally come off the bench starting.

"Am I worried with the form of Dan Leavy? No. If Jack Conan plays well, he's up to that European standard. Rhys Ruddock, Leinster need a huge game from him.

"Any team that is missing out on an in-form Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy is going to less well off for it.

"I would fear, because it's going to be such a gruelling game, that when you do unleash the bench on the hour-mark, do you get the same impact off the bench?"

Clermont have injury woes of their own and will be without French international Wesley Fofana and Noa Nakaitaci.

It means that veteran Aurélien Rougerie will start at outside centre and O'Driscoll believes this is an area that Leinster can exploit.

"Rougerie is working on very old legs at 36. You'd have to imagine that this is his last go at European silverware," he added.

"You wouldn't begrudge him, except that he's playing against my old team.

"There is no doubt that the juice is gone in his legs. That happens all outside backs and usually before 36.

"I'd be excited if I was Garry Ringrose playing against someone who is 14 years older than him.

"The zip is a huge thing on a dry day, on a hard pitch. It's hundredths of a second."

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