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"Blade's pass is a bit better than Marmion" | Brian O'Driscoll's verdict on Connacht's '9' battle

Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

16:54 19 Nov 2019


After speculation linking him with an exit, Ireland international Kieran Marmion has quashed all that. The scrum-half, who missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad, has put pen to paper on a new Connacht deal.

But he does face competition for his starting place at the province. Galway native Caolin Blade is developing nicely as another option at '9' for Andy Friend as well as for Ireland.

The latter started against Montpellier in Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup win. Indeed, Blade went on to score a second-half try.

Ireland and Leinster legend Brian O'Driscoll joined Off The Ball to review the weekend's Champions Cup action. So what did he make of Blade and how does he see the battle with Marmion playing out?

"They're both full of energy and they don't need to think twice about having a break," he said.

"I think Blade's pass is a bit better than Marmion. That's where Marmion has possibly lost out in the past, in those 50:50 calls and obviously when it comes to Rugby World Cup. I was somewhat surprised at that call and really felt for him. All of a sudden, being usurped by [Luke] McGrath at the last minute is a tough one to take.

"And now he's got a serious battle on his hands. It's good news for Connacht and Irish rugby that he's staying put. But I think Blade's pass is a little bit snappier. Scrum-half, particularly from an international perspective, everyone knows that the time on the ball is restricted comparatively to Pro14 and Europe. So you need to get the ball into hand quicker."

Impressive

On the international front, he added that Conor Murray's gap above his scrum-half rivals remains "substantial" but also "reduced".

The overall Connacht performance in light of pre-and-early match setbacks also impressed BOD. He feels Friend has the team on an upward curve.

"It shows that they are a team that are really coming. That they're beginning to get there," he said.

"We've seen that with some of their performances. Ignore the Leinster performance and result last week. I think they just have to sign that up as a blip. Their other performances over the course of the season, there's been a real consistency to it.

"And it's more impressive the fact that they went 7-0 down after two minutes. It was a nice, dry day - perfect conditions for a team like Montpellier. When you come to the Sportsground, you want it to be dry as a bone and you want it to be fast and free-flowing. But so do [Connacht] now. Gone are the days where they encouraged raining cats and dogs. They're a team with a high skill-level.

"It's a throw-back to the Pat Lam era where they've refined that and almost brought that on to the next level."

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Brian O'Driscoll Caolin Blade Conor Murray Heineken Champions Cup Kieran Marmion Off The Ball Rugby

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