| 13.6°C Belfast

Joe Schmidt would have no qualms in giving Brian O'Driscoll Ireland starting role


Brian O'Driscoll has recovered from an injury spell

Brian O'Driscoll has recovered from an injury spell

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Brian O'Driscoll has recovered from an injury spell

Joe Schmidt is a self-confessed DVD junkie, spending more hours than anyone should forensically examining footage of opposing teams and his own players.

During his three years with Leinster, he was renowned for his Monday morning 'review sessions' when he would enthusiastically break down individual performances from the weekend having probably spent Saturday and Sunday nights watching the game on an endless loop.

His briefings about upcoming opposition were always just as detailed. Schmidt is a student of the game.

He delights in plotting how to break the opposition down, in introducing some innovative and intricate move to the training paddock, seeing it mastered and then witnessing it blossom in the competitive arena.

For the past eight months, Schmidt has been in the habit of describing himself as "a coach without a team" as he continues to come to terms with his transition from club head coach to international one.

He readily admits it's been difficult and is something he is "still getting used to". There was an undoubted spring in his step at Ireland's team base in Carton House yesterday. To paraphrase himself, he's become 'a coach with a team'.

There was also a much healthier glow to his features. Schmidt has been out in the fresh air putting his players through their paces. The months of darkened rooms and the dvd players have been – temporarily at least – replaced.

"It's been good," he smiled yesterday. "I've been on the pitch three times over the last two days and it's been hugely enjoyable.

"I haven't lost my voice yet which is surprising and something my wife will probably be disappointed about, but to get back on the training pitch has been exciting.

"We're working through some things and have been showing some encouraging cohesion and clarity. The players understand what we want from them and there's an obvious collectiveness there that is exciting."

The sun shone brilliantly yesterday morning and the vibes from Schmidt's mustering of his troops in anticipation of the three-game series this month were just as positive, no doubt helped by the good news on the injury front.

Brian O'Driscoll has trained fully all week and the coach will have "no hesitation" in selecting him for the game against Samoa.

"If you were to ask Brian, I am sure he'd say he will be able to play in all three games this month and in many respects we'll be led by him, he knows his body and what it's capable of," said Schmidt.

"Rory Best also trained on Tuesday so he's improving. And I expect that Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy will be able to train on Monday or Tuesday at the latest."

Jonathan Sexton flew back to Paris last night and the Ireland management don't yet know if Racing Metro will afford him the weekend off, but Schmidt is hopeful.

"Johnny has played 13 games in 12 weeks. He's given them pretty good service and could do with a weekend off," he said.

"It's an uncontrollable from our perspective. But he could definitely do with a weekend off."

Belfast Telegraph