This weekend Leinster host Bath, Clermont face Northampton Saints, Racing Metro host Saracens and Wasps visit European champions Toulon. On these fixtures O’Driscoll tells Rugby World: “I think that the Leinster game is a very open game that either team could win. Maybe Sarries could win in Racing, but I see the other two (ties) going to the home teams, with Clermont and Toulon winning. Clermont probably won’t win comfortably, but Toulon could do quite well.”
However, much has been made of his former club’s domestic form. Leinster haven’t been able to reach the heights of seasons gone by and the ex-centre has not backed them outright against Bath, but he is also unimpressed with the level of doom and gloom around Leinster’s efforts this term.
“Leinster’s season has been very up and down,” O’Driscoll admits. “But they were 27-7 down at half-time (against Glasgow Warriors in the last round of the Guinness Pro12) and they came back and probably should have won it. The thing with Leinster is: yes, they’ve been up and down, but they’re fifth in the Pro12 and in the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup.
“People are expecting huge things these days. Expectations are unrealistic at times, constantly demanding that high standard. But it’s been okay. They’re still in both competitions.”
There will be time to reassess once the season is over, and Brian O’Driscoll is at pains to point out that Leinster still had a good season last time out under new management and that over the last two seasons the side have lost big name leaders like himself, Leo Cullen, Isa Nacewa and Johnny Sexton – although the fly-half will return to the province for the 2015-16 competitions.
O’Driscoll says: “The sign of a really good team is when you are able to win when you’re not playing great. The All Blacks have been so great for so many years, because they still manage to see games through when they are off, a lot of the time. With Leinster, there was a change of coach last year, new philosophies, but we still won the league.
“It’s ridiculous sometimes how that’s not good enough. Fair enough, we got beaten by the eventual winners of Heineken Cup, as it was – we got beaten very well by Toulon. But it’s very hard to maintain those very, very high standards, year in, year out.”
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Brian O’Driscoll was talking to Rugby World at the Cathay Pacidfic/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Rugby World also have a great video of O’Driscoll evading sevens hero Waisale Serevi.