'We will not play O'Driscoll to death'
August 7, 2013
Leinster stalwart Brian O'Driscoll put off retirement by signing a new one-year deal with the province earlier this year © PA Photos
New Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has vowed to closely manage Brian O'Driscoll's game time this season to get the best out of the veteran centre and ensure they are ready for when he eventually hangs up his boots.
O'Driscoll, 34, opted to put off retirement by signing a new one-year deal with the Irish Rugby Football Union and Leinster earlier this year but he is set to for a limited role with O'Connor keen to ensure he is primed for the major challenges and that a succession plan takes place.
"If we manage his playing time there is really good scope for us to look at the succession plan and what Leinster and Ireland do beyond Brian O'Driscoll which is a huge positive," O'Connor told the Irish Independent. "We won't play him to death, we will try and get him right and get the best bang for our buck in that regard.
"From my end, I would much prefer to have him in the environment and do that than have him out of the environment and be going in at the deep end without the quality of Brian in the group."
O'Connor succeeds Joe Schmidt in the Leinster hotseat with his predecessor having now taken charge of the Ireland national side. But there have been other significant changes since they claimed a PRO12 and Amlin Challenge Cup double last season with fly-half Jonathan Sexton and fullback Isa Nacewa the most notable departures.
There is more upheaval ahead for the three-time Heineken Cup champions with the experienced and aging Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Isaac Boss, Eoin Reddan and Gordon D'Arcy all out of contract at the end of the season.
"We need to try and get better and develop the next tier of guys to fill the void that has been left by some quality players and that is going to be an ongoing issue for the group," explained O'Connor. "If you look at the senior guys that will be moving on over the next 12-24 months there's going to be some significant challenges when it comes to experience.
"It's a case of trying to make sure that next tier have the necessary skills and understand the standard that goes with wearing a Leinster shirt. You can't replace guys who have players 50, 60 70 Tests overnight."
O'Connor joined from Premiership champions Leicester who like their Irish rivals are no strangers to success and he believes that similar culture will serve him and his new side well.
"I will be pretty honest and robust in my approach," he said. "I think one thing that this place has done over the last five or six seasons with Michael [Cheika] and then Joe [Schmidt] in charge is set a pretty good standard and everyone understands what that standard is and I'll be looking to drive those standards, improve those one percenters around the periphery so that we maintain that really high standard of performance.
"I have been lucky enough to have been at Leicester who have a similar culture in that regard, and it is something that drives everyone to be better. If expectation is really high then everyone understands that and everyone has to aspire to that, and I think if managed right it is a huge positive."
He added: "I would imagine the style of rugby that we play will be pretty similar to what we have played over the last three or four years because that is maximising the strength of the group. If the strength of the group moves and there is evolution then we need to adapt and adjust to that to get the best out of whatever guys we have in our group."
Leinster will kick off their defence of the PRO12 title against Scarlets in Llanelli on September 6.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside