Brian O’Driscoll On Ireland’s Back-Three Selection & The Big Decision At Nine

Jason Hennessy

Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor here at RugbyLAD and a proud Limerick man.
Jason Hennessy

Not done yet.

Brian O’Driscoll reckons Keith Earls is far from done as Ireland get set to begin a new era under Andy Farrell this weekend.

The Munster winger is currently carrying a bit of a knock and is a doubt for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday but beyond that O’Driscoll reckons the Moyross man still has a lot of offer the green jersey.

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O’Driscoll said he’s a fan of Andrew Conway but he’s also a “huge fan” of Keith Earls who he thinks is “capable of making everyone look foolish on the training park” including himself.

The former Ireland captain reckons Earls has also managed to convert that training form to match form in recent years and that coupled with his defensive understanding gets him that spot on the right wing over Conway.

“I’m an Andrew Conway fan, but I’m also a huge Keith Earls fan,” O’Driscoll told us.

“I played and trained against him and I think he’s someone that was capable of making everyone look foolish on the training park, me included.

“When you have that done to you, you automatically give respect to someone. Then he’s managed to convert that, and maybe struggled for the first few years converting training form into match form, and now he’s done that.

“His experience, his defensive understanding of how to play the pendulum, even in more aggressive systems where wingers are played higher, I think that’s why he gets in the team for me.”

And in terms of the left wing, O’Driscoll thinks Jacob Stockdale is still the man for the job despite his defensive frailties. And completely his back-three is Jordan Larmour, although it looks like Will Addison will get the nod against Scotland with Larmour struggling with a foot injury.

“Stockdale’s ability to beat people one-on-one, while he continues to learn the defensive side to his game, which is usually the last thing to come and maybe he’s struggled a little bit with uncertainty there,” O’Driscoll added.

“I think those two are the wingers, and then probably just Larmour ahead of Addison, but again you’re not losing a whole lot with one or the other. Slightly different games, but both are attacking threats.

“So yeah, with Conway probably in the 23 again, just missing out, but we’ll see. All of them will get game time in the next seven weeks, with five physical Test matches coming, you’ll see guys not just coming off the bench. You’ll see all of them starting at some point.”

Another huge talking point in recent weeks has been the form of Ulster’s Johny Cooney. The scrumhalf has been of the form players in Europe while Conor Murray overall has struggled for form despite a man of the match performance against Ospreys over the weekend.

Does Farrell go with the form nine in Cooney or does he go with the tried and tested seasoned veteran in Murray. O’Driscoll reckons it will be the latter.

“Conor, comparatively to where has been in the last seven or eight years prior to last year, those standard have been significantly higher than this last year but we’re starting to see signs, particularly after last weekend, of his reemergence,” O’Driscoll said.

“Getting that beat back into his game and genuinely, the untangible of that experience and that know-how are very important to Six Nations rugby. I think he’s going to pick Conor and I would pick Conor.

“I think John Cooney, absolutely I would have him in the 23 on the form that he’s shown. He would bring a different tempo, they’re different nines. He would bring a different tempo to the game when he came on.

“He might get a start or a couple of starts at different times over the course of the Six Nations but I think first up, I would be surprised if he [Andy Farrell] doesn’t go with Johnny and Conor.”

Pictured on his home turf in Clontarf, Brian O’Driscoll has teamed up with GUINNESS to launch a host of GUINNESS SIX NATIONS experiences which celebrate a fusion of the six competing nations inspired cultures through events available to the public. The first experience on 31st January will be a hike along the iconic Howth Head followed by a meal in a local pub, hosted by former on-field rival rugby internationals, Tommy Bowe and Thom Evans. Those wishing to secure a spot on the hike should email [email protected] with their name, date of birth and mobile phone number by 23:59 on Tuesday, 28th January. Over 18’s only. For full terms and conditions and further information on ticketing and open to the public details for all experiences, visit www.guinness.com.