The rumbling fallout from Warren Gatland snubbing Brian O’Driscoll on the Lions tour will not derail Ireland’s bid to see off Wales in Dublin on Saturday, according to Joe Schmidt.
Head coach Schmidt believes the Gatland-O’Driscoll circus is a “non-issue” ahead of Ireland’s second RBS Six Nations clash this weekend.
Gatland was pilloried from many posts after omitting centre O’Driscoll from the Lions’ decisive final Test in Australia in the summer.
The Lions blasted to 41-16 victory, with boss Gatland feeling entirely vindicated in selecting Jonathan Davies at outside centre.
Ireland’s most-capped player O’Driscoll conceded it was hard not to hold a grudge in the aftermath.
Both Gatland and O’Driscoll have moved to play down continued frostiness between the pair in the build-up to this crucial Six Nations showdown.
Former Ireland boss Gatland even lambasted reporters for continuing to quiz him on the issue at the start of the week.
Schmidt, the former Leinster boss, said the fuss has not even registered among the Ireland camp this week.
“Certainly the match and a good performance is far more important for Brian and everyone internally,” said Schmidt.
“It’s a non-issue for us to be honest. It’s something that happened over the summer, there’s a lot of water under the bridge since then.
“I think they’ve both known each other for a long time, I know it’s not a distraction for Brian and it certainly hasn’t been evident that it’s been a distraction for anyone else.
“It’s just about trying to get as well prepared as we can be in the windows that we’ve had.”
Fit-again Gordon D’Arcy has replaced Luke Marshall at inside centre for Saturday’s clash, after missing out with a stomach bug last weekend.
Ireland saw off Scotland 28-6 in their Six Nations opener last Sunday, with Schimdt admitting a big step forward will be required to see off the Welsh in round two.
D’Arcy and O’Driscoll will extend still further their already world-record combined caps haul for an international centre partnership against Wales.
O’Driscoll will retire at the end of the season, with the Six Nations his Ireland swansong.
Whatever misty-eyed reminiscences fill column inches and terrace talk, Schmidt said sentiment will not cloud the judgement of his stalwart midfield pairing.
“The one thing that they both know, on behalf of the team, is that it’s what they do on Saturday that is of the utmost importance,” said Schmidt.
“If we put things in a historical context, it is exactly that, that’s what happened, in the past.
“It’s about making sure they make the things happen that need to happen on Saturday and I know they are really conscious of that.”
Meanwhile, Schmidt insists Luke Marshall will not be affected adversley by the decision not to include him in the Welsh game after he started last week.
“With a six day turnaround we were always going to rotate some positions. Luke’s confidence is not affected - he is an incredibly positive young man,” said Smith.