Brian O’Driscoll has named Hugo Keenan as the one current Leinster player he would have loved to have played with during his own playing days. The Leinster, Ireland and Lions legend retired in 2014, a short-lived cameo in the PRO12 final versus Glasgow the last time he played before hanging up his boots as a serial trophy winner.
The current Leinster set-up that is looking to win a fifth Heineken Champions Cup title this Saturday in France is very different to what O’Driscoll knew from his own era – for instance, of the matchday 23 that defeated Toulouse in the recent European semi-final, the legendary ex-midfielder would have only ever played with four of them in the past.
Take away the starting out-half Johnny Sexton, who was the Leinster star when they dethroned Toulouse on May 14, and semi-final replacements Cian Healy, Rhys Ruddock and Luke McGrath and you are left with 19 players that O’Driscoll never shared a dressing room with as a teammate.
That is a lot of change and asked by RugbyPass to pick the ‘new’ Leinster player he would love to play with, O’Driscoll chose Keenan, the soon-to-be 26-year-old who has stepped on the career accelerator in the past two seasons and flourished.
Keenan made a fleeting November 2016 debut off the PRO12 bench versus Zebre but it wasn’t until the post-lockdown resumption of Irish rugby in August 2020 that he began to reach great heights, becoming the first-choice Ireland full-back under Andy Farrell and cementing his Leinster place under Leo Cullen.
He made a Champions Cup debut in the delayed September 2020 quarter-final versus Saracens, has started all twelve of the last Leinster games in Europe and is now primed to feature in his first European final when his club play La Rochelle in Marseille this Saturday. “You could pick a number of them because they are all great athletes, very, very skilful players,” said O’Driscoll when quizzed which ‘new’ Leinster player he most would like to play with.
“Hugo Keenan looks like a really exciting player to link with. He is someone that works hard for the team but also takes his opportunities but links play brilliantly, an excellent passer of the ball under pressure. Again, really good basics so someone like him would be exciting to have in your team.
“He doesn’t die with the ball very often, a good offloader, gets it away. He has got a very, very high ceiling of where he can go and his consistency of performance has been outstanding. I’ll leave it just picking him.”
- BT Sport is the home of the European Rugby Champions Cup. The 2021/22 season concludes this weekend with Leinster vs Stade Rochelais live on BT Sport 2 at 4pm on Saturday, May 28. Find out more on how to watch at BT Sport bt.com/sport
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