O'Driscoll confirmed as Ireland skipper
November 4, 2009
O'Driscoll steered Ireland to Six Nations glory before starring for the Lions in South Africa © Inpho Photography
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has confirmed Brian O'Driscoll will skipper the Grand Slam champions for their series of Test matches against Australia, Fiji and South Africa.
Kidney has his players down in Limerick this week as they step up their preparations for the three-match series, which begins against Australia at Croke Park on Sunday week.
In ironing out the captaincy issue, the Grand Slam-winning coach heaped praise on O'Driscoll, who has captained his country full-time since 2004, while also commending others in the Irish squad for their leadership skills.
"Paul (O'Connell) has captained the Lions and captained Munster quite well, Donncha (O'Callaghan) has captained the Lions and Ronan (O'Gara) has captained the Lions. Ronan has captained with Munster and Ireland also," he said.
"In Brian's case, he brings a lot of experience to it, like the other lads would do, he is motoring well at the moment so we just felt it prudent (to pick him).
"It's been a long time since we were together, six or seven months, so, for continuity and for a whole host of reasons really, we decided to stay with him."
But Kidney stressed the captaincy issue is treated on a series-by-series basis and a new skipper could yet be installed for Ireland's defence of their Six Nations title in the spring.
"It's like we dealt with it last year, it is just on a series-by-series basis," he continued. "That helps in Brian's case, too, as it doesn't heap pressure on him for a whole year and allows him to come in and be captain and then just get on with his game in December and January. We will see him again come February but I think any one of a host of guys could actually do that."
Kidney described O'Driscoll's reaction to the news as one of immense pride. The Dubliner has captained Ireland to 39 wins in 56 Test matches since helping them get past Australia at a wet Lansdowne Road in November 2002.
"He was delighted and that is the thing - he is excited about it as ever really," said Kidney. "He was really keen on it and that's an important part, too, because captain is a bit like some of the ancillary jobs that are going, because not only do you have to play, you have to give a bit of yourself to the other members of the team then, too. If anything, his enthusiasm for the job is growing and that is a great thing because it feeds into the team."
The major concern for the Irish management ahead of the Wallabies game is the fitness of long-serving prop Marcus Horan, who is currently undergoing medical tests away from the Limerick camp.
He was replaced after 20 minutes of Munster's Heineken Cup win over Benetton Treviso last month, complaining of dizziness, and the Grand Slam winner's availability for the Test series will not be known until later in the week when the tests are expected to be completed.
Kidney explained: "There are ongoing investigations and, not being a medic, I wouldn't know (exactly what is wrong). I know that Marcus is not able to train and it is just prudent. He is just getting looked after and as soon as we know more we will let you know. In this job you can't afford to rule guys out until they are definitely out. He would need to be active next week to be involved with it.
"The investigations are taking place and the latest that we have is that they will have something concrete on Friday. I would only be adding to the rumours if I was to come out and say something now."
Meanwhile, Kidney revealed the Irish medical staff have had a number of injuries and ailments to deal with over the first two days of the camp. Rob Kearney, Jerry Flannery, Tomas O'Leary, Paddy Wallace and Denis Leamy all missed training today, the latter three with colds, while Tony Buckley and Leo Cullen are nursing injuries.
"Gordon D'Arcy played a little bit of a part this morning as did Brian (O'Driscoll). The non-contact stuff basically for the two of those," continued Kidney. "We got through training okay this morning but we just had to work our way through it. With the lads playing last weekend - and that's what we would have wanted as you don't want to go too long without a game, but you don't want to cut it too short either."
Ireland's current 39-man squad will be whittled down to 30 players on Friday, with the team and replacements to face Australia being named next Wednesday afternoon.