Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Schmidt glad Drico received perfect Aviva farewell

High praise: Brian O'Driscoll was hailed by Irish coach Joe Schmidt

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt – the man who persuaded Brian O'Driscoll to give Ireland one final season – was delighted Saturday had gone so perfectly.

"I think it was an incredibly special day. He made it special because he had a hand in three tries," Schmidt said, making no attempt to disguise the admiration and respect he has for O'Driscoll.

"He has an ability to get into space and to get the right pass away at the right time – even if he creates a pass that's not out of the textbook. He is a creative man.

"He's courageous and he's got a bit of class about him. In the days of the big, direct-running centre he might be the final bastion along with Gordon (D'Arcy) for the small centre who is a creator of play rather than a direct runner.

"I thought it was great for him, I thought the crowd were phenomenal.

"Even on the big screen, whenever he popped up, there was raucous applause.

"I guess it's partly he wanted to acknowledge the support he's had in the last 14 years by playing the way he did today.

"And I think the crowd acknowledged him in return with the massive support. I didn't see anyone leave after the match."

Regarding his role in having managed to get O'Driscoll to postpone his retirement, Schmidt smiled: "There was a bit of bullying both ways, really, going back a few months – well, quite a few months now.

"I'm delighted he stayed on. I think even for guys like Darren Cave and Robbie Henshaw who have been in camp, he's worked really well with those two.

"Whoever does take over, he has shared a lot of his knowledge. He has given them feedback on the line they're running at training, the timing of the pass, the type of pass or the quality of it.

"So I think even in that context he has been generous to a fault and, as I've said, I think he was pretty generous in his performance.

"He threw himself into a ruck to get a turn-over at one stage which showed all that courage and fighting spirit that he's renowned for."

Captain Paul O'Connell revealed that the Irish players had sought to make the occasion one to savour for the team's elder statesman.

"It was something we spoke about – a small group of us – in terms of giving him the platform to be able to play and enjoy the day and have a great day for himself and his family as well," O'Connell said.

"It was fantastic. I mean, the way he played I just thought was incredible.

"We see him a lot more than you guys, the little touches he has in training, but some of the stuff he did today I'd never seen before.

"He spoke during the week about his body not being willing, but his mind still being willing; his mind seems to be getting better and better to me. I just thought he was incredible and I was delighted for him.

"I was a great occasion for him and for his family."

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