Brian O’Driscoll has backed Ireland’s decision to appoint Andy Farrell as successor to head coach Joe Schmidt and says next year represents a golden opportunity to win the Rugby World Cup for the first time.
Schmidt announced on Monday that he is to stand down following the tournament in Japan, with defence coach Farrell stepping into the top job.
The Kiwi guided Ireland to the Grand Slam earlier this year and has also overseen the only two wins over New Zealand in the team’s history.
O’Driscoll was not surprised at Schmidt’s decision considering he has been in the post since 2013.
“My gut was that he would have announced it at the start of November if he had been staying on, to inject some positivity into the squad for that series,” HSBC global rugby sevens ambassador O’Driscoll told Omnisport.
“He probably feels that five years is a long enough time as head coach of any team, and he would have probably needed to do another cycle, which is another four years, and that was too long.
“He wanted some time away from the game. He’s been full on, he only goes at 100 miles an hour, so for him to go full on for at least eight years in Ireland – with Leinster and Ireland – maybe he just needs to pull the handbrake up a bit and look after himself and his family.”
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 26, 2018
Asked whether the desire to send Schmidt out on a high would provide Ireland with added incentive to succeed at the World Cup, O’Driscoll added: “I don’t think it will be an added motivation, I think they will feel as though they have the best opportunity they will ever have under Joe Schmidt in a World Cup.
“There is going to be a continuation with Andy Farrell bringing a lot of the philosophies Joe has implemented in this team through into the next generation for the 2023 World Cup.
“A lot of these players are not thinking beyond this World Cup, they’ll be thinking this is a great shot.
“They’ve got a group they feel they can manage with Scotland and Japan, and then [potentially] a quarter-final against a rejuvenated South Africa. But you get to a semi-final and a final, you’d go down in Irish folklore.”
Brian O’Driscoll and Bryan Habana are HSBC global rugby sevens ambassadors. They are working alongside HSBC to support the explosive growth of rugby sevens, helping the exciting and unpredictable sport thrive all over the world. Follow all the action at @HSBC_Sport on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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