Sport Rugby

Friday 6 December 2019

Ireland captaincy snub will destroy O’Driscoll’s hopes of leading Lions, blasts ‘disgusted’ Corrigan

Brian O'Driscoll's dream of skippering the Lions for a second time this summer could lie in ruins after Declan Kidney's decision to strip him of the Ireland captaincy for the first time in almost a decade.

That's according to O'Driscoll's former Leinster and Ireland team-mate Reggie Corrigan, who has revealed that he is "absolutely shocked by this decision and somewhat disgusted as well."

Kidney has announced that Jamie Heaslip will remain in the role of captain, having deputised for the injured O'Driscoll (above) – who has led Ireland 84 times in 120 Tests – during the November series.

O'Driscoll, who may retire this summer if he is not offered another deal by the IRFU, has already stated that he will not play in the 2015 World Cup, prompting Kidney to persuade his captain to step aside.

Corrigan, however, believes that the move smacks of self-serving PR and is a snub to one of Ireland's most loyal servants.

"I cannot for the life of me understand the reasoning behind this other than to create some short of shock value," he said. "The decision is terrible. I can't think of a worse one. I just can't get my head around why (Kidney) would want to do it. Where's the loyalty?

"Brian has been everything about Irish rugby for the last decade. He's been doggedly playing through injury, determinedly leading that team. He's iconic. People look up to him.

"And now in his final days as a player, effectively he's been stripped of the captaincy. You can gloss it up whatever way you want. It's a wrong decision. There's probably only three months left in his international career and he should be allowed to go out on a high.

"It certainly doesn't do his Lions chances any good whatsoever. Brian has openly stated he wants to be considered. This sends out a message of doubt about him, a question mark. Again, where's the loyalty?

"There's no need to do this now. There's plenty of time after the Six Nations to install Jamie Heaslip as captain. He will become a great captain for Ireland. But there's plenty of time for him to learn before the World Cup.

"This will put added pressure on Jamie. Everyone is going to be talking about Brian not being captain, so the weight of expectancy is going to be huge. People will be waiting for him to mess up," added Foley.

Kidney, who announced a 39-man squad for the upcoming Ireland Wolfhounds game and the Six Nations opener against Wales, believes that standing O'Driscoll down for the championship will allow the centre to concentrate on getting back to his best form.

"The captaincy was not something Brian was ever going to give up, or felt that he should give it up," said Kidney. "Maybe some time in the future... but he wouldn't have felt that the time would be right now. That's what being the coach is about, making some of those hard decisions.

"Brian was disappointed at the decision, but he respects and accepts the decision and will be a huge help to Jamie," said Kidney. "I believe that by relieving Brian of the pressures of captaincy, it will help him as a player."

Kidney discounted the suggestion that there will be added pressure on Heaslip as captain with O'Driscoll back in the squad. "Isn't it way better to have that experience to lean on? When you're captain it's always a plus when someone else speaks in the dressing-room too," he said.

O'Driscoll insisted there is no ill-will towards Kidney or Heaslip.

"The captaincy has been a big part of my career and life, and while I was very disappointed, I accepted the reasons," he said.

"I've always known that the World Cup in 2015 was most likely a bridge too far for me, so at some point a player who will most likely be there for the tournament, needs to build that captaincy experience.

"Jamie will do a fantastic job and I will be giving him all of the support that he needs."

It was also announced that Anthony Foley and Greg Feek will work with the squad throughout the Six Nations.

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