'Phenomenal' Joe Schmidt would inspire Lions, insists Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll believes Joe Schmidt would be a "phenomenal" appointment for the Lions in 2017, but believes the IRFU may stand in the Ireland coach's way if he is asked to lead the tour of his homeland.
The former Ireland captain skippered the touring party on their last visit to New Zealand in 2005 and, while his own involvement in the Test series was infamously cut short in controversial circumstances, he believes facing the All Blacks is the toughest tour of all.
Schmidt appears to be in a two-way battle with Warren Gatland for the role.
His contract with the union expires in June 2017 and he will decide on his next move after leading Ireland to South Africa this summer.
"He'd do a phenomenal job," O'Driscoll told 'Sport' magazine. "He's a top-class coach. His attention to detail is what makes him stand apart. He's a great thinker and he'd make the Lions very competitive in what is the most difficult environment of all.
"There would be a need for him to give up the Ireland role for an eight-month period. I don't know how much the union would be keen on that. A lot depends on whether he wants to stay on until the next World Cup as well.
"All that talk will happen in the summer, so a lot more will come to light then. They could do a hell of a lot worse than Joe."
Preparing for South Africa is top of Schmidt's agenda as he prepares to run the rule over his players in the weekend's inter-provincial derbies and O'Driscoll believes Ireland have a job on their hand to beat the Springboks away for the first time in June.
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"Ireland have never won in South Africa. To pinch one, they'll be doing extremely well," he said.
Elsewhere, Sale Sharks have confirmed the signing of United States international AJ MacGinty from Connacht.
"I have really enjoyed my time at Connacht and would like to thank all the coaches, players, fans and staff for their support," said the Dublin-born out-half. "In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to Pat Lam (Connacht head coach), and I look forward to finishing the season as strong as possible."