IRELAND RUGBY BOSS Declan Kidney says he made the decision to remove the captaincy from Brian O’Driscoll for the player’s benefit.
Kidney revealed his 6 Nations squad at an Aviva Stadium press conference this morning and named Jamie Heaslip as the skipper for the tournament.
“I just felt it was better to ask Jamie to stay on as captain,” said Kidney, “with not so much a view of taking it off of Brian but to really give him a chance to get his own game and himself right.
“It’s obviously not an easy decision but it’s one that I think is the correct one at this point in time, just to allow him to do that and I’m very grateful to Jamie for taking on the quite onerous task of the captain.”
O’Driscoll missed the November Internationals through injury and Kidney says the Leinster centre understands the move is for the good of the squad and himself.
“Obviously he’d be very disappointed,” said the Corkman. “Brian has always told you what an honour it is to captain Ireland and that will never change. He accepts my reasons for doing it. That’s part and parcel of being a coach, making these decisions in the best interest of the player.
“Sometimes they’re tough decisions, I wouldn’t deny that. But that’s the role and the job, not just to make the easy ones but to make the hard ones too. We have a fantastic leadership group in Brian, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell, Ronan; they’ve carried the team and continue to carry the team. And their contribution to it has been immense over the past number of years. We’ve been working on another group and Jamie is part of that group.
“But the primary reason is just to allow Brian… I don’t think people fully realise the weight that’s on the captain’s shoulders. And I just feel now is the right time to allow him to concentrate on himself. Please God he comes in has a great 6 Nations [and] goes off on the Lions.”
Leinster face Exeter Chiefs on Saturday evening in their final Heineken Cup group game, with their title very much on the line. And Kidney — when asked about the player’s fitness — said he expects O’Driscoll to feature.
“Brian will rock up this weekend — we’ll have to wait for the team announcement tomorrow — but there’s nothing that tells me he won’t be going out this weekend.”