LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor believes rugby would be the loser should Brian O’Driscoll choose not to move into the world of coaching next season.
The 35-year-old centre is in his final year as a player, with much still left to achieve with his province. O’Driscoll enjoyed his final game of international rugby just last weekend, helping Ireland to their Six Nations triumph in Paris.
Echoing the words of Joe Schmidt, O’Connor stated his belief that O’Driscoll has skills to offer as a coach in the future.
“It’s a huge waste of the experience if he is not involved in the game moving forward. Joe has made similar comments to that this week.
That is 100% Brian’s decision if he wants to be involved. The door will always be open for him but that is a personal decision him and Amy [his wife] have to make moving forward, in relation to what direction they want their life to take.”
Retiring lock Leo Cullen will move into Leinster’s backroom staff as forwards coach next season, with his influence on the pack having been so vital in recent years. O’Connor says he can envisage a similar switch for O’Driscoll.
“That is not specific to Brian. That is the mantra for all the senior guys in the group. That is part of the experience and status in the group, that’s a given.
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“He has a lot more knowledge and a lot more experience than most and he certainly imparts that on the group. Whether he wants to formalise that moving forward, it is a conversation for another day.”
As for eventually replacing O’Driscoll on the pitch, O’Connor again admitted that Leinster faced a demanding task. Fergus McFadden will wear the 13 jersey tomorrow night against Zebre, with Brendan Macken on the bench and Luke Fitzgerald on the wing.
That trio represent options for O’Connor next season, and the Australian has underlined that the province are unlikely to turn to the transfer market to replace O’Driscoll.
The logistics of that are quite difficult. Firstly replacing Brian O’Driscoll has its own issues, but coming up to a World Cup there are not many blokes who are, if I’m perfectly honest, good enough to fit the 13 shirt for us on the market currently.
“We are pretty confident with the bodies we have at the moment that we can cope with that void in the short term and will look at the options in and around that at an appropriate time in the future.”
Meanwhile, Leinster are expected to announce a new contract for Gordon D’Arcy in the coming weeks. The 34-year-old’s current IRFU deal expires at the end of the season, but his excellent form has pushed the province to act.
It is understood that no deal has yet been signed, but the formalities should be completed soon.
- Audio courtesy of Cillian O’Conchuir.