JOE SCHMIDT WAS quick to quash talk of Brian O’Driscoll’s extra year as a personal ‘win’.
“Not really,” says the next Ireland coach. “He makes his own decisions.”
Still, even Schmidt’s predecessor in the international hot-seat would have struggled to contain some the excitement that the long-time captain and eternal icon of this country would lace up his boots for (at least) one more year.
“I’ve benefited from having him in the group for the past three years.” Schmidt adds. “He allows you do and experiment things on the field because of the talent and the vision he plays with.
“We have enjoyed that coach/player relationship thus far and it will be great to have continued involvement for another year - It’s been a long-running saga. So it’s good to have finally put that behind us.”
The big reveal of O’Driscoll’s plans for the next year so served as a helpful cushion to the news his back would keep him off the RDS pitch tonight. An injury without the contract could have caused a minor panic. Schmidt, however, hinted that O’Driscoll may well have been called onto the bench in more extreme circumstances.
“It’s more about not taking the risk.” He said. “We’ve managed to scrape our way through a number of games in recent times. What we’ve committed to doing is putting people who are 100% fit onto the field. For Brian, we’ve given him as much time as possible.
“We thought he’d train on Tuesday, he didn’t. We said if you train Thursday that’ll do, but he couldn’t train fully today. I wouldn’t have too many concerns about next week – I’d be really confident.”
Two more years?
Schmidt perhaps would not be quite as confident, but no more surprised, if the groundswell of public adoration were to cause another ‘one more year’ chant to echo around Irish rugby grounds this time next year. He lets a heary laugh escape when it’s put to him that O’Driscoll should have just signed up for two years and was done with it.
“I’ve no doubt that come this time next year we may be saying the same thing, but I guess we have to try and convince Amy and little Sadie about that, because inevitably that always puts a different equiilbium into people’s lives.
“In the short term, I’m delighted he’s here for one. i’ll take that. hopefully that one goes really well for him.”
“As for the one more year chants, obviously we planted a few people to start that up – I think Frank O’Driscoll was in amongst it as well. He’s pretty keen to see his son continue.
“There’s a little bit of everyone that doesn’t want a good thing to end. and he’s been such a good thing for Irish rugby.”
Sounds like a win to us.