Waratahs bound? Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll. Photo: Getty Images
SYDNEY: NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has revealed Brian O'Driscoll's touted move to Sydney could become a reality thanks to the high-powered intervention from a cashed-up sponsor shared by the Super Rugby franchise and the Ireland captain.
O'Driscoll has repeatedly spoken publicly and to his good friend Cheika, who he worked under at Irish provincial side Leinster, about playing in the southern hemisphere competition.
With the Waratahs struggling on the field, and battling for exposure off it, Cheika only has to look across to Moore Park neighbours A-League's Sydney FC to see the impact a world-class international recruit - in their case Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero - can have.
And a possible third-party deal with the help of HSBC, who have sponsored the Waratahs for the past 11 years and count O'Driscoll as an official ambassador, could bring similar benefits to NSW.
"Brian is an ambassador for HSBC and he has an arrangement with them to promote them through rugby," Cheika said.
"He is contracted to them and is doing part of the (British and Irish) Lions preparation with them because they are a sponsor there too. He has a deal with them which includes such things as speaking engagements and writing articles for them, which obviously promote them and the game."
O'Driscoll is off contract in June next year and, while his signing would be a major coup for the Waratahs, Cheika said there was a way to go before it became a reality.
"The top players in the world like Brian would all like to come down and see how they fare down here but you have to remember it is very difficult for Irish players to leave Ireland," Cheika said.
"Because when they retire, they get a big tax back payment. He is obviously one of the highest-paid players in Ireland, so it would be a big decision for him to come here.
"But there is no doubt the thought about coming down here is with a lot of the top players over there. Whether it becomes a reality is something else."