'I'd love to see if Harlequins can convert their style of play into Europe' - Brian O'Driscoll 1 month ago

'I'd love to see if Harlequins can convert their style of play into Europe' - Brian O'Driscoll

"Get past either of them and you should be in the final."

It is Leinster or Toulouse for Brian O'Driscoll, heading into another European season, but he will be keeping a close eye on Harlequins.

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It is Champions Cup week, the days are counting down quickly and both JOE and O'Driscoll are well indoors as Storm Barra howls outside of respective homes.

It's a funny old chat with O'Driscoll, but it follows the lines of most leading figures in rugby - time-pressed but then happy to go five or 10 minutes extra with you as they just love the game so much. We spend our last three minutes talking about Bordeaux's Matthieu Jalibert and Ulupano Seuteni

The former Leinster and Ireland star is preparing for another season of BT Sport punditry work, on European rugby, and is set for two good games this weekend - Leinster vs. Bath (Dublin) and Connacht vs. Stade Francais (Galway). He has Toulouse and Leinster ear-marked as the teams to beat. but includes some others in the 'have a decent shot' category.

Brian O'Driscoll Rocky Elsom, Brian O'Driscoll, Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D'Arcy celebrate after Leinster's 2009 European Cup win. (Credit: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE)

Brian O'Driscoll's on Harlequins potential

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"I have such a great love for Europe," O'Driscoll says, "and it's not just for great games or tries scored, it's because it's such a tough competition to win.

"It took so long for us [Leinster] to get there but then winning three in four years is just so lovely to look back on. Not many people have one European Cup, so to have three is lovely."

Leinster added their fourth Champions Cup in 2018 but that has been the only additional European title they have won since O'Driscoll retired in 2014. Saracens [twice] and La Rochelle, last season, have been the latest to frustrate the Blues, but their former captain has them right up there for 2021/22.

"The best chances are Leinster and Toulouse, first of all, for me," he says.

"Looking at outliers, if Bordeaux can beat Leicester, and do it again when they get back to Welford Road - they got to the semi-finals after beating Racing, last season. They obviously have something, a team spirit in there, because they haven't got that many superstars...

"I'd love to see if Harlequins can convert some of their Premiership form, and their style of play, into Europe. I think that would be a great addition.

"You then have Clermont, and you look at the Irish provinces. Ulster are talking about developing. Maybe they need to win a United Rugby Championship and go on from there. I'm not necessarily saying they can go on and win it, but can they get to a quarter or semi-final? I don't think they're a final team, certainly not yet, but a lot of that is stepping stones to future successes."

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Harlequins stormed to Premiership success, last season, with a daring brand of rugby and O'Driscoll is hoping the likes of Louis Lynagh, Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt can light up some big European nights, and days.

Ronan Kelleher Caelan Doris and Rónan Kelleher celebrate during Ireland's recent win over New Zealand. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

O'Driscoll praise for Leinster star Caelan Doris

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On Leinster's way to their first ever European Cup win, they were inspired in every big game by Wallabies star Rocky Elsom.

The back-row was imperious in wins over Castres, Harlequins, Munster and Leicester Tigers, on the way to cup glory. Touching on the 'consistently world-class' performances the Aussie delivered, we ask O'Driscoll what current Ireland player gets him excited when he watches games now.

"Someone like Caelan Doris is starting to get that kudos and that credibility," says Brian O'Driscoll.

"He's got the ball-playing, ball-carrying, the work-rate and the handling as well. It's that. It's that skill-set that differentiates himself from other No.8s or back-rowers and serves as his exciting potential.

"Now, he still has to do it for a bit - you have to do it for 10 years, or so, to be properly appreciated at that high, high level. But if he can stay in the game and stay fit, I think the sky is the limit as to what he can achieve. Because he looks as though he does have it all."

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Caelan Doris, Antoine Dupont and Marcus Smith - "He's just got that x-factor" - these are the players that gets Brian O'Driscoll excited.

He knows class acts when he sees them.

Brian O'Driscoll

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 11th December. Find out more information on how to watch at BT Sport bt.com/sport