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Brian O’Driscoll Confirms Main Man Behind Leinster’s Success

Leinster legend Brian O’Driscoll has had his say on how Leinster have become a European powerhouse and puts it down to one man in particular

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(Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images)

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.

Champions Cup

Leinster name team to face Montpellier

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Leinster Rugby squad, proudly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, has been named by Leo Cullen ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the RDS Arena (KO 1pm – live on BT Sport and Newstalk).

The side will be captained by James Ryan and it will be the first time that the team has played since the fixture against Bath in Aviva Stadium on 11 December.

Hugo Keenan will wear the number 15 jersey, with Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien on the wings. O’Brien made his European debut against Montpellier last season.

In the centre, Ciarán Frawley and Garry Ringrose are selected, while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the half-backs selected by Cullen.

In the pack, Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong start in the front row with Ross Molony and James Ryan an all-St. Michael’s College second row.

Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete Cullen’s starting XV.

On the bench, Rhys Ruddock is in line to win his 50th Champions Cup cap for Leinster Rugby should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby team v Montpellier (caps in brackets):

15. Hugo Keenan (36)
14. Jordan Larmour (67)
13. Garry Ringrose (92)
12. Ciarán Frawley (42)
11. Jimmy O’Brien (38)
10. Ross Byrne (111)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (106)

1. Andrew Porter (82)
2. Rónan Kelleher (30)
3. Tadhg Furlong (118)
4. Ross Molony (123)
5. James Ryan (53) CAPTAIN
6. Caelan Doris (45)
7. Josh van der Flier (104)
8. Jack Conan (107)

Replacements:

16. Dan Sheehan (19)
17. Cian Healy (238)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (7)
19. Rhys Ruddock (196)
20. Max Deegan (71)
21. Luke McGrath (158)
22. Johnny Sexton (176)
23. James Lowe (57)

Referee – Wayne Barnes (RFU)

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Champions Cup

Ulster team named for away clash against Northampton Saints

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland international, Robert Baloucoune, will make a welcome return from injury to join Ulster’s match-day squad travelling to cinch Stadium on Sunday to face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3.15pm kick-off).

The winger has been named on the right wing with Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy taking up the full-back and left wing starting positions. Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns has been selected at out-half with Nathan Doak, who is set to make his first European start, joining him at scrum-half.

Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore will pack down either side of Rob Herring in the front row. Alan O’Connor will once again captain the side, and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell. Marcus Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney named at openside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are named as forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing back line cover.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Heineken Champions Cup Round 3, Sunday 16 January at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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Champions Cup

Scarlets forfeit Champions Cup opener v Bristol

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Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited our round one Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, due to be played on Saturday, December 11.

Following discussions between Scarlets management, coaches, players and medical and conditioning staff, the overwhelming feeling was that it would be a physical risk to select any of the 32 front-line squad members who are currently in quarantine in a hotel outside of Belfast.

Since returning from South Africa, the travelling party have been in a strict 10-day quarantine, confined to their rooms with limited outdoor time a day without having been able to train as a group. That isolation period is due to end on Friday, December 10 – just a day before the Bristol fixture.

At present, we have 14 fit Scarlets players training at Parc y Scarlets – seven senior players and seven development players. 

We would like to thank the Ospreys and Dragons for their offer of assistance, but, unfortunately, we have been unable to put together a match-day squad that can safely take the field against the Bears.

“It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly,” said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack.

“This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to.

“Ultimately, though, the welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine. You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all. Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.

“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.

“With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.

“We are all disappointed. I know a lot of fans had booked accommodation in Bristol and have been looking forward to this game for some time. But I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own. 

“I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

“We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January.”

For those supporters who have purchased tickets and official coach travel for the game, further details will be published shortly.

Source – Scarlets Rugby

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