Schmidt will want O’Connell to stay around squad, says Brian O’Driscoll

By Stephen Barry

Joe Schmidt will still want the presence of Paul O’Connell around his squad in some capacity, after the retiring Ireland captain was ruled out of the World Cup.

That’s according to O’Connell’s predecessor as captain, Brian O’Driscoll, who worked extensively with Schmidt for Leinster and Ireland.

“I know Joe will want him [O’Connell] there,” said O’Driscoll at the Newstalk ‘Off The Ball Roadshow’, in partnership with Heineken, at the 3Arena tonight.

Schmidt will want O’Connell to stay around squad, says Brian O’Driscoll

“His presence - with or without saying anything - will inspire the players, so please God he'll be able to get back for some inspirational words.”

Yesterday Schmidt admitted that O'Connell's absence would leave a "big hole" in the team.

“It's incredibly disappointing for Paul as it is for us, because we feel we need his leadership and his playing talent,” Schmidt said.

O’Connell has been widely praised since sustaining a hamstring injury against France to prematurely end his final tournament in a green jersey.

O’Driscoll believes that the leadership qualities that defined O’Connell’s career would still stand to the current Ireland squad.

Speaking about O’Connell’s international tenure, O’Driscoll added: “He grew as a player and leader so quickly. He was absolutely vital to Ireland's cause.

“Through all our success, from the early Triple Crowns to the later Grand Slam and RBS Six Nations titles, he had a pivotal role as a player, but even more so as a pack leader and getting them to play better than their ability belied.”

Schmidt will want O’Connell to stay around squad, says Brian O’Driscoll

Former Ireland and Ulster back-row Stephen Ferris described O’Connell as the best he’d ever faced, having met in many provincial derbies:

“I loved playing against him because he was the best, and you love playing against the best. He brought a physicality; he was a beast to play against.

“The players have learnt from the master; there's no better man than Devin Toner to call the lineouts going forward.”

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