Leinster: Life After BOD
The world of rugby has recently said a not so distant fair well to a not so unlucky man with an unlucky number on his back. A sheer talent, on and off the pitch, the worlds most capped International player, Ireland’s highest try scorer and the 8th highest try scorer in the world rankings, 4 European titles, 4 Pro 12 titles, 4 Lions tours & 2 6 nations championships… The list goes on.
But it’s not Brian O’Driscoll’s stats that took the world by storm but his undoubted intelligence on the pitch. Although he was christened an outside centre he could ruck like a No. 8, pass like a scrumhalf and tackle like an open side flanker. The complete player by all accounts.
BODs retirement from the beautiful game brought many tears to eyes all over the world, as it may be a long time before a talent of his caliber lights up a rugby pitch once again. He is now one of Ireland’s A list celebs, admired by all. Every aspiring teenage boy wanted to be like him and every teenage girl wanted to be with him. I’m sure he’d still give 1D a run for their money if he wasn’t expecting a second child. Congrats Brian and Amy.
But how will Leinster pan out without ‘BOD Almighty’? Only a fool would argue that Leinster’s success had nothing to do with his strokes of spontaneous genius. Leinster however are still a force to be reckoned with talent emerging regularly from the ranks of blue and an array still at their disposal.
Cian Healy carries his youthful front row with determination. Possibly the best loosehead head in the business, he will make any tighthead tremble to his knees, while having the audacity to protect his hooker. His line out skills aren’t one to dismiss either. He can read the calls like no other, flinging 6′ 11″beasts into the air as if he was twirling a gymnastics baton, and then there is his ball carrying… From the base of the ruck he averaged 30 meters per game last season. Destroying ‘pillars and post’ like nobodies business.
In Sean Cronin and Richardt Struass Leinster have a choice most coaches would envy to have. Both men have an unusual gift with there hooks in the scrum. Their torpedo style line-outs too quick for opposition to comprehend. My choice would be Cronin for now as Strauss (who recently had heart surgery) still struggles to finish out the 80 minutes. But in saying so is one hell of an impact sub to have as his his maul is so composed.
The locks are the driving force behind the scrum. The retirement of Leo Cullen at the end of last year, a large gap has been left at the number 4 shirt. A number I believe Devin Toner will do justice. At 6 foot 11 inches his aerial skill are exceptional. He only need to stand over the ruck to protect his tackled team mate on deck.
Jamie Heaslip as new captain in at No. 8 has proven his place on the pitch. He ticks every box. His ball carrying is that which stands out for me. In fact he’s so good I could write an entire article on him, but we’ll leave that for another day. I would not want to be the unlucky man having to put him to ground for 80 minutes during a European cup final. Then there’s the flankers. Jennings and O’Brien still float my boat this season. Still a bit of pace in them even as senior members of squad., but who to pick between Rhys Ruddock, McLaughlin and Jordi Murphy. No doubt all three are the pinnacle of future Irish Rugby.
Now to the back-line. With Isaac Boss set to play his 100th cap for Leinster this weekend he has been a great contribution to Leinster. Quick quick on his feet, quick to the breakdown and throws the ball like a whippet, Reddan also even as he winds down a glittered career, can’t be forgotten. Leinster are lucky to be so fortunate to be able balance the two players off each other without feeling there is a gap left in the team. Reddan’s unexpected line breaks from the base of the ruck or maul makes him dangerous to defensive lines.
With the return of Johnny sexton at the end of next year, I don’t think Leinster will have much of a problem in the game play department. Gopperth’s performances last season also cannot go unnoticed. His composure and passion in the 10 shirt was admirable. I would however like to see Ian Madigan get more game time. He brings more flare to game play, just lacks a little on place kicking. Again it is a heathy rivalry to keep both players working for the right to wear the coveted 10 jersey.
Is this Gordon D’Arcy’s last year in a blue or green shirt? The man is an inspiration to rugby. The No. 12 veteran has been through the injury mill over the last five seasons but he really showed true colours last season in a honourable farewell to his partner in crime. How will he play with his new apprentice at his right hand side?
Fergus McFadden has a lot of muck to find to fill in the hole left by BOD. He certainly has potential to have a lengthy career in the 13 shirt but will he ever be as majestic? This season will really put Leinster through there paces in the back-line. McFadden’s line runs are what give him his brownie points on top of his bone crunching tackles. Is he Leinster and Ireland’s new permanent outside centre?
Up next- the Kearney brothers. Robs ridiculous aerobatics under high balls and devastating speed makes him undoubtedly still one of the world’s top fullbacks . Dave is lighting quick, the ideal wing in the right place at the right time.
Will Leinster miss O’Driscoll? Absolutely. Can they still win competitions? Yes. That showed testament in last years pro 12 final. Of course it was said to see O’Driscoll go off early on his last game but when it mattered Leinster were expected play as a team and not an individual- and they did that impressively. The Leinster branch to be fair to them have possibly one of the greatest youth system in the sport. Between the school teams, clubs and Leinster’s youth academy, I have no doubt that someday they will discover the future Brian O’Driscoll. By Conor Carey