Leinster and Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has revealed that former Leinster head coach Michael Cheika was the game-changer for the province and made them the team they are today.
Cheika, who arrived from Randwick in 2005, lead the team to their first European Cup in 2009 and changed the team from underachievers to winners.
“We undoubtedly had the talent in the early 2000s and just didn’t understand the work-ethic side of things, the sacrifice part. And then it was the flip of that in 2006. We weren’t as talented, but we worked hard and Michael Cheika was absolutely enormous to the shaping of the province. He was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
O’Driscoll continued to say that the ‘cancer’ at the club were the players who failed to live up to expectation and were happy to just be at the province.
“There were individuals that just were on easy-street and just happy to be professional rugby players, rather than professional players who wanted to win. The senior players rule the roost and I don’t want to talk negatively about them because there were some great players, but I don’t think we had the mentality of that team that came through from 2006 through to now,” he said.
Earlier in the interview O’Driscoll admitted that Leinster’s 30-6 home Champions Cup semi-final loss to Munster in 2006 pushed them on further.
“The semi-final in 2006 was big for us. We weren’t as nearly as talented a Leinster team as previous years, but yet we managed to get there and it gave us hope,” he said.
Although Cheika was the catalyst for their transformation, Joe Schmidt brought a new philosophy to the club when he arrived that lead to Leinster winning two more Champions Cups. However, O’Driscoll believes that current head coach and former team-mate Leo Cullen has developed the side even further and discussed Cullen’s vision from the start.
“I met Leo before the start of his second year and he had a very clear vision of how he wanted to play and we are seeing that now. I thought to myself, ‘This is a ballsy call’, considering the year he had and because Leinster had gone back a step or two in the two previous years,” he added.
O’Driscoll confirmed that the style of play Cullen wanted to implement was that of the All Blacks, whereby the number on your shirt is irrelevant and that you are willing to do everything for your team.
“It was three years ago and just the start of the ’15-man game’. The All Blacks were playing it, but no one else really was. Leo wanted to do it. It was about everyone being a ball-player and no numbers on backs after first phase. It was about everyone being comfortable in their role and a possession-based game and only kicking on their own terms,” he said.
He finished by looking ahead to this weekend’s clash of the titans between Leinster and Saracens and believes that his old side have no limitations to where the current side can go.
“I hope the final lives up to its potential because they are far and away the two best teams in Europe, consistently for the last five years. Who knows where this group of Leinster players can go? There are no limitations. You feel as though this group will be in the mix for the next couple of years. The same as Saracens,” he finished.
Leinster face Saracens on Saturday and are looking to become the first side to win the tournament five times, a fantasy thought for many when they won their first European Cup 10 years ago, but it is now very close to becoming a reality and it all started with Cheika.
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Bayonne At Thomond
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup opener against Bayonne at Thomond Park (5.30pm).
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Jean Kleyn will be unavailable until the New Year due to an eye injury suffered in the Leinster match. He attended for a specialist review last Tuesday and Wednesday and will have further follow-up before Christmas.
Jack Daly (ankle) and Liam Coombes (shoulder) both underwent surgery last week and will begin rehabilitation under the medical department.
There is good news for Patrick Campbell (ankle) as he has returned to team training.
Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will also return to training this week.
Simon Zebo (knee) will continue to rehabilitate early this week.
The availability of Campbell, O’Donoghue and Zebo will be determined later in the week.
Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) is improving but will remain unavailable for the Bayonne clash.
Continuing to rehab: Jack Daly (ankle), Peter O’Mahony (shoulder), Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
There were 11 Munster players in AIL action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Fionn Gibbons, Chris Moore and Keynan Knox helped Young Munster to a win over City of Armagh with Gibbons among the tries.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten away to Terenure College.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver, George Hadden and Colm Hogan helped Garryowen beat Blackrock College with Hogan scoring a try on his debut for the club. Oliver also kicked three conversions and two penalties.
Jack O’Sullivan and Ben O’Connor featured for UCC as they were narrowly beaten by Old Wesley.
In Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemians to a draw against MU Barnhall.
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A World First For Munster Rugby And Crusaders
Munster Rugby and the Crusaders are set to create history in 2024 with a world-first ‘Clash of Champions’ game on Saturday, February 3 (5pm).
The New Zealand franchise secured their seventh successive Super Rugby Pacific championship on Saturday in Waikato defeating Chiefs 25-20 to retain their title. They are the most successful team in the competition’s history having won 14 trophies and are world renowned for their history and record of success and excellence.
Following Munster’s recent URC success in Cape Town, it will be the first time ever the reigning champions of the URC and Super Rugby face off against each other.
Former Munster Head Coach Rob Penney has already been confirmed as the new Crusaders Head Coach from 2024 and their pre-season campaign will see them embark on their first-ever international tour for fixtures against Munster and Bristol Bears.
Munster Rugby CEO, Ian Flanagan said: “We are delighted to welcome the Super Rugby champions to Munster, hosting a groundbreaking fixture against the Crusaders.
“We hold a proud and rich history of playing touring sides and I’ve no doubt next February’s game will be a special occasion for all involved.”
Colin Mansbridge, Crusaders CEO, said: “The Crusaders are thrilled to be coming over to Ireland and the UK to face some stiff competition away from home.
“NZ and Australian clubs have been working on the World Club Competition for years, so when an opportunity for Super teams to play Northern Hemisphere counterparts came up, it was just too good to pass up.
“Munster have a history of giving touring sides a pretty hard time, so they present particularly tough competition. There’s also the added connection with our new Head Coach Rob Penney who coached there,” Mansbridge said.
The venue within Munster, and ticket details, will be confirmed in due course. MRSC members will be contacted directly regarding a pre-sale.
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2024 Crusaders Ireland and UK Fixtures
Saturday, February 3, 2024
Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Venue TBC, 5pm;
Friday February 9, 2024
Bristol Bears v Crusaders, Ashton Gate, 7.30pm;
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Leinster drawn in Pool 4 in the 2023/24 Champions Cup
The draw for the pool stages of the 2023/24 Champions Cup took place earlier this afternoon in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Leinster Rugby have been drawn in Pool 4, alongside La Rochelle, Stade Francais, Leicester Tigers, DHL Stormers and Sale Sharks.
Leo Cullen’s team will face La Rochelle, Stade Francais, Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks in the four pool matches, with two matches at home, and two matches away.
The top-four teams from each pool will advance to the Round of 16, with the fifth-placed teams moving into the EPCR Challange Cup.
All fixture details will be confirmed in due course.
Round 1 – 8/9/10 December 2023
Round 2 – 15/16/17 December 2023
Round 3 – 12/13/14 January 2024
Round 4 – 19/20/21 January 2024
Round of 16 – 5/6/7 April 2024
Quarter-Finals – 12/13/14 April 2024
Semi-Finals – 3/4/5 May 2024
EPCR Challenge Cup Final – Friday 24 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Champions Cup Final – Saturday 25 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
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