Saturday 17 March 2018

'The one cog missing' - Brian O'Driscoll highlights the importance of Andy Farrell to Joe Schmidt's backroom team

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, with defence coach Andy Farrell
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, with defence coach Andy Farrell

Duncan Bech

Brian O'Driscoll believes the reappointment of Andy Farrell to Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions coaching team would be welcomed by players.

Farrell is favourite to reprise the defence role he performed with distinction in 2013 when Australia were dispatched 2-1, with Gatland scheduled to announce his assistants in Dublin on December 7.

O'Driscoll, a veteran of four Lions tours, insists the players were inspired by the passion displayed by Farrell three years ago.

"Farrell is good man manager and motivator and we got excited when he started talking. Kick chase became exciting," O'Driscoll said.

"And I would imagine if he is brought in the players will continue to be excited. He talked about getting off the line, about no logs on the ground, about making sure you're back on your feet.

"It was all about energy. The way Farrell talks, he really gets into it. And if he was on the coaching ticket I think he would be a really great addition."

Farrell was England's defence coach until the hosts' demise in last autumn's World Cup, but has since been recruited by Ireland.

Former Ireland captain O'Driscoll believes his imprint was stamped all over the historic 40-29 victory over New Zealand in Chicago on November 6.

"Andy has been incredibly influential. I have spoken to the boys and the very first session that he took they were incredibly excited about what he was saying, the enthusiasm that he had," O'Driscoll said.

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"The boys who were on the Lions Tour in 2013 said he has brought his coaching to another level since then.

"When I was playing we were all relatively organised defensively as a team, but it was probably one cog that we missed because (head coach) Joe Schmidt was taking it and he had everything to think about.

"When you give responsibility for defence to one person, I think it only adds value to the team because they are so focused. You have seen it with Wales for many years with Shaun Edwards.

"Now the players get excited about how their defence goes. Attack for them is an added bonus, but how their defence responds in a game is how they earn their crust."

Ireland's victory against New Zealand in America was their first taste of success against the world champions in 111 years and on Saturday they face a rematch at the Aviva Stadium.

O'Driscoll backed Ireland to beat the bookmakers' spread of winning by plus 23, winning "a couple of quid, nothing life changing but enough to add to a good weekend", and insists they can do it again.

"It's obviously a bigger challenge because they've poked the bear. The bear will be not happy about that," O'Driscoll said.

"They won't have the unforced error count that they had. They will be raging from their defeat. It's a black mark on (captain) Kieran Read and (coach) Steve Hansen.

"They've got lots of good marks, don't get me wrong, but the first team to lose to Ireland, they won't want to lose back-to-back games, that's for certain."

* Brian O'Driscoll is the ambassador for the new Thomas Pink Lions Collection. In stores now.

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