Billy Stickland/INPHO Jones with his players post-match in November.
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'Eddie Jones will be delighted that we’re not talking about his players' -- O'Driscoll
Brian O’Driscoll thinks Ireland have risen above being distracted by ‘external factors’.

AS A MAN who once used a pre-England v Ireland press conference to veto a fruit salad ingredient, Brian O’Driscoll knows there is a level of absurdity that goes hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing hype for this fixture.

Typically enough, Eddie Jones and his camp have revelled at the opportunity to hop a few grenades off the wall and see where they land. Joe Schmidt, meanwhile, was left to claim – unconvincingly – that he loves ‘the banter’.

Schmidt doesn’t love banter. He loves order amid chaos and that brought John Mitchell to say Ireland would aim to ‘bore the shit out of’ England.

Before that, Jones’ gripe was over the World Player of the Year being given a window to get his point across to referees.

O’Driscoll can’t see his former team-mates being wounded by the barbs.

“We heard it from him a couple of seasons ago, he somewhat distastefully started talking about concussions and how Johnny’s (Sexton) parents should be concerned,” said the former centre.

“It’s not the first time that we’ve heard him throwing in a little side story to remind referees and adjudicators, that do read the press as well, about what to expect.

“Rory Best in that captain’s role, I think he does a phenomenal job of keeping referees on side. Even when he’s put out – not feeling antagonised by them. I think Johnny’s learning an awful lot in his captaincy with Leinster as to what’s working and what isn’t. It’s still a fairly new role to him.

There’s always something to talk about, here we are chatting about it. Eddie (Jones) will be delighted that we’re not talking about his players that much.”

In speaking about Jones’ players, O’Driscoll plumped for Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi as his own preferred centre partnership, filling a spot opposite them, Garry Ringrose embodies the ideal shield for the verbal arrows sent Ireland’s way. This side have brought expectations of Irish rugby to new heights and they have worked to find comfort in the front-runner position having been an underdog for so many years.

“External factors aren’t really of concern to them, I think they really drive their own desire and appetite and hunger because they’ve ticked a lot of boxes over the last couple of years,” says O’Driscoll as he launched a responsible drinking campaign for Six Nations sponsors Guinness.

“They’re going through a process of just building to the next World Cup.

“The Guinness Six Nations is a stepping stone for them to be able to continue building that confidence and give themselves the shot in the arm they need to go a step further, or two steps further than they’ve ever done before.”

Brian O'Driscoll Billy Stickland / INPHO Guinness say they are rebranding water as Guinness Clear 'to make ordering water an active, positive choice'. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I think part of that is the coaching ticket won’t let them rest on their laurels either.

“They’ll drive the standards and make sure that there’s an improvement game on game, that they’ll be able to find holes in every performance, when you think you’ve got a near perfect performance, Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell will find seven or eight things that individuals can improve and the team can improve collectively so you’re never the finished article in rugby.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect performance. Once you know that and once you know that you need to continually improve, you always have something to drive yourself towards.”


Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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