“You want to be entertained. You want teams to try and play and express themselves – not be metronomic and robotic in what they’re trying to do”
Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)
Brian O’Driscoll says Marcus Smith has helped reignite his passion for rugby after the Lions tour left him cold.
O’Driscoll found the summer offering from South Africa forgettable and did not even watch some of the games.
Yet an autumn lit up by the likes of Smith and Antoine Dupont has him buzzing again ahead of this weekend’s European Champions Cup kick-off.
“I never got into it,” O’Driscoll said of the Lions tour. “You want to be entertained. You want teams to try and play and express themselves – not be metronomic and robotic in what they’re trying to do.
“The whole idea of rugby is how you tweak and modify and read the game in real time and take opportunities when they present themselves, rather than just bludgeoning teams and playing kick and contest. We all felt a bit suffocated by that.”
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Cue Smith and the other boys of autumn who turned a stodgy summer into a fantastic fall with their flair and ambition as the home nations and France put the southern hemisphere to the sword in thrilling style.
“There’s an ego in every player, they want to be able to show their skillset,” said O’Driscoll. “Out think rather than outmuscle; entertain, inspire, leave people with takeaways.
“Seeing the skill, footwork, agility, support lines and passing game of guys like Smith, Dupont and Hugo Keenan makes you feel warm that the game is now going in the right direction.”
O’Driscoll reckons whoever beats holders Toulouse and Leinster will be crowned European champions.
He sees those two as the stand-out sides but says Harlequins, who open up away to French club Castres on Sunday, are the team that most excites him.
“Quins don’t get frightened, they don’t get pulled into playing a different style no matter who they’re up against,” he said. “An axis of Smith, Danny Care and Alex Dombrandt will create opportunities for those around them.
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“Marcus exudes confidence in the way he plays and any player keeping George Ford out of the England team must be playing bloody well.
“He’s not for moulding, for trying to play a different style. If you want to play Marcus Smith you know what you’re going to get.
“He needs to become that all-round controlling 10 too but you don’t want to take that x-factor, that spark, away from him. Because that’s what has him playing for England.”
BT Sport is the home of European Rugby Champions Cup. The 2021/22 season kicks off with a weekend full of games, including Leinster v Bath live on BT Sport 2 at 3.15pm on Saturday. For more information on how to watch visit bt.com/sport