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.
“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.
Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract
One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU
The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.
“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.
Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.
“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.
Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.
“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.
Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.
Connacht Receive Planning Permission for Stadium Redevelopment
Connacht have announced that the Sportsground’s redevelopment has been given the all-clear and will have a couple of new features
Connacht Rugby have been granted planning permission for the €30 million redevelopment of the Sportsground and it will some new features.
The land is owned by the Irish Greyhound Board and will include a new greyhound racing track once complete along with a new high-performance centre.
Speaking on the redevelopment Connacht’s chief executive Willie Ruane admitted he is delighted that everything had been passed.
“There has been huge momentum behind the project since we announced last October, and we now have the final granting of planning permission. With 130 people employed throughout the province by Connacht Rugby we are extremely proud of the annual contribution of €34.4 million we are making to the regional economy,” he said
The new stadium will also have a 12,000-seat capacity, with two stands on either touchline and terrace areas behind the try-lines.
The club secured €10 million in private funding between its own funds and an approved bank credit facility. Ruane confirmed that without the State providing the other €20 million the project cannot continue.
“We have €10m in private funding to bring to the table through a mixture of Connacht Rugby funds and an approved bank credit facility. The project is now shovel ready and the remaining €20m state investment is critical to its delivery,” he added.
The redevelopment would be a massive boost to the club who are progressing season by season and have secured Champions Cup rugby for next season. It is also positive news for the Galway area as a whole as it continues to grow in popularity among tourists and this will only add to the attraction.
Saracens’ Star Duo to Miss End of Season
Two Saracens players are set to miss the remainder of the season and there is no set date for their return
Saracens props Mako Vunipola and Titi Lamositele will miss the end of the season due to injury.
Vunipola, who has been plagued by injury this year, has picked up a significant hamstring injury but Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is certain he will be available for England’s World Cup campaign.
“Mako has a torn hamstring. We’re waiting to see exactly what happens with that, but I very much doubt he’ll play again this season. Nether will Titi. Mako won’t be out of the World Cup, but he’ll be out for a while. It’s quite a significant injury. It’s disappointing to lose two players of that quality and it makes us a little bit vulnerable,” he said.
Many of the 23 that took part in the final are expected to be rested in the final regular season game of the campaign against Worcester this Saturday. However, Saracens face a semi-final a week later and a potential final to retain their crown a week after that and this is a huge blow.
Despite the losses McCall is confident that his side have the firepower to get the job done.
“Juan Figallo is just coming back from injury, which is good timing. We were really impressed with Richard Barrington and Vincent Koch did when they came on, and Christian Judge has had a really good season. So we’ve got some guys who are ready to step up,” he added.
Although McCall has said that Vunipola will be ready for the World Cup, England head coach Eddie Jones will be sweating on the match-fitness of one of his star men, who has only played twice in the past three months.
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