Brian O’Driscoll: Rassie exit won’t be seamless

Brian O’Driscoll has cast doubt on Rassie Erasmus’s claim that his departure from Munster will be a ‘seamless’ one.

Brian O’Driscoll: Rassie exit won’t be seamless

The precise timing of the Munster director of rugby’s return to South Africa is as yet unknown, with the former Springbok suggesting he could leave at any time between now and January.

But he maintains that planning behind the scenes has ensured the transition will be flawless.

O’Driscoll, speaking in Dublin to promote BT Sport on the eir Sport Pack, is not convinced.

“There is a danger it will distract players because you will have one eye on who is coming in,” he said.

“It a strange circumstance to have a head coach leaving halfway through a season, I’m sure they’re working on a contingency. I don’t know who they have lined up, there’s lots of speculation about potential successors.

“It’s not an ideal situation to find yourself in having done four rounds of Europe and half of your PRO14 season, and then a new voice comes in and they have to continue with the same style of play. You can’t change that mid-season, but it’s definitely not a perfect situation to find themselves in.

“All their talk is that it will be seamless — I struggle to see how it will be seamless if you’re listening to one voice for six months and someone else for the next five.”

O’Driscoll understands why Erasmus decided to leave for what he called a dream job in South Africa, but he was slightly less understanding about the timing of the exit.

“I totally get why he’s going, I don’t know why there’s this six-month period,” he said.

“Had Munster felt they were under too much pressure to find a successor over the course of the summer?

“You look at what happened with Leinster and it’s all worked out well, but Leo [Cullen] probably found himself in that role before his time, apparently because there weren’t a huge number of other candidates that were willing to up sticks and move family and everything in a very short period of time.

“Sometimes you need lead-in time for planning and perhaps Munster felt this was the better of the two options, letting Rassie see it through to Christmas and then bringing someone in who would be able to pick up the reins where Rassie left them down.”

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell is among those speculated to take over from Erasmus, while existing coaching staff members Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery have also had their names in the mix, although it is understood to be too soon for that duo to take control.

Another former great is always likely to have his name included in speculation, but while O’Driscoll believes Ronan O’Gara could do the job, he believes it might be too soon for the former outhalf.

“Is ROG technically good? Absolutely, but he is the one who says he doesn’t feel the timing is right,” he said.

“He knows that best. He’s not what they are looking for. I think the time will eventually come when he will go back and coach Munster. That will happen.

“He has to be careful too about how quickly you find yourself back in your dream role. Beyond Guy Noves [with Toulouse], there’s not too many coaches that stay beyond four or five seasons with their preferred club.

“There is a finite period of time in most coaching roles where you have to move on. If you get there too early, where do you go from there? Potentially for the Irish job.

“But I think he’s been playing it smart and learning his trade elsewhere, away from the glare of all of us. He is going about his business, learning new skills, coaching pretty impressive players, learning a lot from them. He is being smart in the way he is working it.

“I would be intrigued to see how ROG got on at Munster. Absolutely.”

Peter O’Mahony will be back with Munster this season after a bittersweet Lions tour, where he captained the side in the first Test but was dropped for the second and third.

But O’Driscoll has backed the Munster flanker to bounce back.

“Peter is a very old head on still relatively young shoulders, and he’s very popular,” he said.

“I think you can see in any team that he embeds himself into, particularly in a Munster setup, but also with Ireland, how he takes his opportunity, and he has done.

“He’s going to be a huge player for Ireland come the World Cup in 2019.

“It’s an incredibly competitive back row, and again Joe will be picking on form. It would be a silly man who’d bet against Pete being one of those in the 6 or 7 jersey, likely 6.

“He’s got a serious bloody-mindedness and I’m sure the disappointment of what happened during the summer will pump him up for the season to make sure that he can prove a few people wrong.”

Could he become the Ireland captain?

“Rory Best is the number one if he’s fit and willing, but in his absence? I think Pete is the obvious choice,” O’Driscoll said.

“Because of how much he is respected, but you have to guarantee your captain a starting berth, and can you guarantee him that in that back row right now, 100%? Probably not, but there is a good likelihood that he’d be there.

“Other than that, Johnny Sexton has really matured in the last few years. It looks as though he’s mellowed out an awful lot, and he’s better captaincy material now.

“Conor Murray, he doesn’t need to be captain because he just leads the way with his performance anyway, he’s a world class 9.

“I do think it’s probably Pete, Johnny, or Rory if you’re not picking the holder.”

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