Rugby Union

Brian O'Driscoll: Ulster Rugby a 'basket case' and players may be reluctant to move to Belfast

Brian O'Driscoll

Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has described Ulster as a "bit of a basket case"and said players could be reluctant to move to Belfast because the club is not challenging for titles.

Ulster are struggling to reach the Pro14 play-offs and are also on the hunt for a new head coach.

The club are hoping to secure either of Leinster fly-halves Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne to replace Paddy Jackson, who was recently sacked.

Jackson and former teammate Stuart Olding has their contracts revoked 10 days ago following an internal review into their conduct by their employers Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

While Jackson (26) and Olding (25) were found not guilty of rape last month, other aspects of their behaviour had been heavily criticised, with major sponsors of Ulster Rugby having voiced concern.

Speaking to Off The Ball AM on Newstalk radio, O'Driscoll said: “It’s a tricky one for them because potentially Carbery or Byrne could leave a winning culture, you look at Jordi Murphy – it can’t be easy playing some of the best rugby of his life both from a Leinster perspective but also from Jordi’s perspective.

“Things are clearly not going right for Ulster, they don’t have a coach and are a little bit of a basket case at the moment, he’s going up there to try and play his rugby from next year on.

“When the decision was made six months ago he was 4th in the pecking order, he didn’t know Josh van der Flier was going to get injured and Sean O’Brien and he didn’t know he’d get as much game time as he has done.

“Likewise with Carbery or I think it’ll be more likely that it’s Ross Byrne who’ll want to go and get more game time - that is if Carbery is used a bit more often at 10.

“Joe Schmidt has to be pulling his hair out that Carbery has only had one outing for Leinster starting in the number 10 jersey and he’s his back up number 10, that’s not ideal.

“Someone is going to move and probably quite soon just to get game time because you can’t have three quality operators at 10.

O’Driscoll admits that if it were him he would refuse to make the move:

“It’s a tough one, I would too (refuse to move) because there’s a good chance you’re going to be winning medals or going to be in the hunt to win medals, at the moment Ulster are awhile away from that.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen at Ulster, who is coming in, am I going to improve as a player, whatever about playing more often what skills am I being thought on week to week basis. I wouldn’t be in a rush at the moment, certainly that wouldn’t be my first port of call.

“Maybe they will be encouraged, maybe the IRFU or Joe Schmidt will put an arm around the shoulder and have a quiet word and say ‘if you have aspirations to be involved in the longer term you need to go and look at playing regular football’”.


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