Saturday 18 November 2017

Schmidt urged to start planning for life without O'Driscoll

Kuridrani: Exciting prospect
Kuridrani: Exciting prospect
David Kelly

David Kelly

Australian coach Ewen McKenzie is already planning for the 2015 World Cup and, despite Brian O'Driscoll's imminent retirement, he suggests that Ireland should begin to do the same.

The Wallabies have had to leave about "20 players" at home for their northern hemisphere tour, in the midst of a sequence of results that could yet accumulate into their worst ever in a calendar year.

But McKenzie has insisted that he will continue to back youth, perhaps resisting the temptation to match the experienced Adam Ashley-Cooper against O'Driscoll as he ponders retaining faith in the exciting Tevita Kuridrani alongside converted out-half Matt Toomua in midfield.

"Players like Brian are so well respected that they command your attention," says McKenzie of the player sensationally omitted by Lions coach Warren Gatland against Australia last summer.

"It's a big challenge because whoever is in front of him is only going to have a handful of Tests under his belt. There's a lesson to be learned there, a real opportunity to do well. It's an exciting prospect.

"It will be daunting for our guys but a good challenge. We could put Adam in, but if I take the young guy out, am I not backing him? You have to be careful.

"I know they're not the finished article but I enjoy backing them. The young guys have been good and now they're starting to deliver. They've had a lot of hard games against good teams but they're starting to deliver. So do you back the guys or hide them? I tend to back the young players."

Like Schmidt, McKenzie has only started in the top job but he appreciates that while arresting current decline is important, preparation for the next World Cup must be of partial parallel concern.

"There's been a lot of talk about whether he's playing on," he adds. "The challenge now for Ireland is how many games they've got before the World Cup and who actually goes there.

"World Cup history is littered with teams who went there over the back of the hill and others that were too young. These are challenges for all of us coaches.

"This weekend is not about the World Cup, but as a coach you have to have one eye on your playing stocks and where you're going. That's one of the big things that sits in the background. You have to deal with it.

"Ireland have a finite number of games ahead of the World Cup to implement change. We know they can have a few tricks up their sleeve. Joe Schmidt likes to express himself in his teams. We need to expect the unexpected."

Irish Independent

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