“If It’s Fast, Play It. Don’t Worry About Any System” – Brian O’Driscoll On Ireland’s Need To Play Heads-Up Rugby

Heads-up rugby.

Rugby more often than not is a game of chess. It’s all about tactics, game plans, structures, set-pieces and so on. But the ability to look up and play “heads-up rugby” so to speak is what separates a good player from a great player.

Most of us can take orders and do what we’re told quite easily. When you’re handed an instruction and you’re told to stick to that, it’s not rocket science. Do what you’re told, listen to your coach and play your individual role. At the end of the day, you’re just one piece on the board.

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Irish Rugby has reaped the rewards of a rigid structure and game plan in recent years but the game evolves and while it’s important to not get frustrated with your overall plan to defeat a team, there are times when you need to just play what’s in front of you and take some chances.

Former Ireland, Leinster and Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll was one of the best in the world at that in his day. If it was on, you could be damn sure O’Driscoll was going for it. And more often than not it paid off for him. And that’s why he’s considered as one of best to have ever played the sport.

But in order to get those opportunities, you have to win the collision zone. Win that and you’ve got quick ruck ball and as we all know – that’s worth its weight in gold, providing you utilise it when opportunity comes knocking,

“We’ll know an awful lot more over the next two weeks what way Ireland want to play,” O’Driscoll said when asked about Ireland evolving their game and playing more heads-up rugby.

“But for them to get to show that they’ve got to continue to be collision winners. I talk about it nearly every week when I’m talking about rugby, it becomes such a simple game.

“When you win tackles, when you win that collision zone – if you don’t win that, the knock-on effect is the ruck is messy, you’ve to put more bodies into It, it’s slower and the defensive line sets and you’ve got less bodies to play against and you’ve to kick it.

“Or you’ve got this rush defence on you. If you get accurate and you can win that collision, you can clear-out quickly and you can make it a two-second ruck and the game just evolves in front of you.

“And that’s what kills me – guys trying to set-up, scrum-halves, in particular, trying to wait for the cavalry to get around the corner and set-up because they’re trying to get back into their system.

“If it’s fast, play it. Don’t worry about any system because the defence is not set either and you have the ability to play what you see. 

“Turning a three-second ruck into six because I want some numbers… just take it and run across the field yourself and wait for someone to run a line off you. Because someone is going to make a bad decision in that defence if they’re a bit disorganised too.”

O’Driscoll highlighted Juan Imhoff’s try for Racing at the weekend as a perfect example of playing what’s in front of you and not waiting for the cavalry to arrive. Something Ireland haven’t really shown in recent months.

“Imhoff, his try in the Champions Cup final,” O’Driscoll added.

“He’s in at scrumhalf and he just ran for a couple of seconds and eyeballed, was it Jonny Hill that made a bad decision and shot out of the line? There you go. It doesn’t matter what number jersey you have on you.

“If it’s there to be played, play. Because particularly tight-forwards might feel a bit vulnerable against an outside back. They want the security of close contact and to be set nice and early. If they’re left out on their own or left to defend with a bit of space, jeez there’s no better opportunity to try and get in behind or to pile pressure on them.

“It’s what we’re looking for. They’re [forwards] looking for mismatches of running over us [backs], we’re looking for mismatches of trying to isolate them in the wider channels.”

You can take a look at that try from Imhoff above to see what O’Driscoll is talking about.

The full interview with O’Driscoll where he talks about Conor Murray and his passing, the best centre he’s ever come up against and the power game debate among other things is available now on Episode 10 of the Up and Under Podcast.

Guinness teamed up with Sene Naoupu and Brian O’Driscoll to announce a partnership with Canterbury, Intersport Elverys, and the IRFU in support of the sale of the newly-released Irish Women’s Rugby team jerseys across its retail sites; the Guinness Webstore and Guinness Open Gate Brewery from 21 October while stocks last. 

Ireland will resume their Six Nations campaign when they welcome Italy to Energia Park on Saturday, 24th October at 18:30 and will conclude their campaign away to France in Le Stadium (Nord Lille Metropole) on Sunday, 1st November at 13:30. While there is disappointment among fans, for whom there was a greater demand than ever for tickets, people can still show their support for the Ireland Women’s Rugby team by watching their remaining two games on RTÉ.

Sene Naoupu, a strong promoter of equality in the Women’s game who joined Guinness to announce this new partnership said;

“In order to grow women’s sport, visibility is key. As a current player, myself and my teammates see the importance of this, be it increased media coverage, showing our games on RTÉ or as Guinness is doing, giving fans the opportunity to show their allegiance and feel closer to the women’s rugby team, by proudly wearing our jerseys.

“These steps to ensure the women’s game is seen has a hugely positive impact on all of us players, giving us an extra boost of support when we need it most and it has the knock on effect of encouraging higher attendance at matches, when possible and increased uptake of the game amongst women throughout the country. It’s wonderful to have the continued support of Guinness, who is a firm advocate for equality in the women’s game.”