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O'Driscoll: Cheika started Leinster revolution

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'Cheika was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer'

Brian O’Driscoll has hailed the calculated punt Leinster took in 2005 which changed the club’s DNA forever. Leinster were trophy-less in Europe when a little known Michael Cheika was recruited as head coach from Randwick following the departure of Declan Kidney to Munster.

Within four seasons, the Australian had led the Irish province to their first European title and they are now heading to Newcastle this weekend to try and win their fifth in 11 seasons. What spurred Leinster into radically altering their culture was losing the 2006 semi-final in Dublin to Munster, who went on to win the first of two titles in three seasons.

That defeat was the catalyst for the mind change that ignited the all-conquering club that is today feared by its European rivals. “The semi-final in 2006 was big for us,” said O’Driscoll in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph.

“We weren’t as nearly as talented a Leinster team as previous years, but yet we managed to get there and it gave us hope. We undoubtedly had the talent in the early 2000s and just didn’t understand the work-ethic side of things, the sacrifice part. And then it was the flip of that in 2006.

“We weren’t as talented, but we worked hard and Michael Cheika was absolutely enormous to the shaping of the province. He was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer. There were individuals that just were on easy-street and just happy to be professional rugby players, rather than professional players who wanted to win.

“The senior players rule the roost and I don’t want to talk negatively about them because there were some great players, but I don’t think we had the mentality of that team that came through from 2006 through to now. When you come into an environment it takes a while for you to shape yourself, too, and understand what real professionalism is. The penny dropped against Munster.”

WATCH: The RugbyPass fly-on-the-wall documentary on Leinster’s 2018 PRO14 final win

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'Cheika was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer'