Brian O'Driscoll says Stuart Lancaster's input will boost Leinster in Europe

Stuart Lancaster talks to Leinster back Zane Kirchner
Brian O'Driscoll says Lancaster's input since September has already brought improvements to Leinster

Brian O'Driscoll believes the input of ex-England coach Stuart Lancaster will result in a marked improvement in Leinster's European form this season.

The three-times champions slumped to bottom of their pool last season, winning just the one match.

But O'Driscoll says he has been impressed by the impact of Lancaster, who joined Leinster at the start of September as a senior coach.

"He's been a great signing," O'Driscoll told BBC 5 live.

"I can see a big shift in defence, there is an appetite and a hunger again.

"I just see a greater intensity and aggression level when they don't have the ball.

"I also see greater organisation - I'm sure Leo Cullen is tying it all together brilliantly - and it definitely gives a little bit of optimism that Leinster will be a lot more competitive than they were last year."

Leinster open their Champions Cup campaign with a home game against Castres on Saturday with Northampton and Montpellier also in their pool.

O'Driscoll celebrates with centre partner Gordon D'Arcy after Leinster's European triumph in 2012
Brian O'Driscoll played in Leinster's European triumphs in 2009, 2011 and 2012

Ireland's European fortunes have dipped

During O'Driscoll's career, Munster and Leinster regularly dominated the European landscape, with Munster winning the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2008, before Leinster's success in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

But last season no Irish province reached the knockout stages, and O'Driscoll says the money on offer in England and France has had an impact.

"I think we are struggling to attract the really top class players, and it does come down to a money issue," said the former Lions and Ireland captain.

"The fall of sterling has a positive effect for Irish capabilities in the future, but players seem to be choosing going to the Premiership or to France because there seems to be that extra 50 or 100 grand above what the provinces and the union are willing to supplement for our overseas projects.

"That is a concern, I don't see the Ma'a Nonus of the world coming over and playing in Ireland in the last couple of seasons.

"I also think success obviously attracts players, and we had that a few years ago."

Ruan Pienaar will be leaving Ulster at the end of this season.
The IRFU have prevented Ruan Pienaar from extending his current Ulster contract

O'Driscoll backs IRFU's Pienaar decision

O'Driscoll has backed the Irish Rugby Union's controversial decision to block Ulster's South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar from signing a new contract in Belfast.

O'Driscoll feels up-and-coming Irish number 9s now need to be given more exposure at the top level.

"Ulster fans won't love me saying it, but he's been contracted twice and [the IRFU] don't want to set precedents by giving overseas players a third contract which in a way sends the wrong signals.

"Ruan has plugged himself into the system, and really enjoyed it, but at the same time Ireland have struggled in the scrum-half position for years.

"You look beyond Conor Murray and I think there is a huge gulf in class down to the next player.

"Ruan provided that exposure on a daily basis to scrum-halves coming in and seeing him at close quarters but after six years they still haven't developed a scrum-half to come through and fill his boots.

"I think now they have to change a different tack, and give these young guys experience whether they are ready or not."

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