Rugby

Brian O'Driscoll Identifies Ireland's Ideal Back 3 For Autumn Internationals

Brian O'Driscoll Identifies Ireland's Ideal Back 3 For Autumn Internationals

Ireland kick-off their Autumn international series against South Africa on Saturday, and Joe Schmidt will hand first Ireland caps to two new players should Darren Sweetnam be called from the bench to join fellow newcomer Bundee Aki who starts at #12.

With the absence of Simon Zebo, the back three positions would have been where most Irish fans looked first upon seeing the team-sheet, and Rob Kearney will play at fullback flanked by Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway.

This is Brian O'Driscoll's ideal back three for Ireland going forward if you swap one Munster man with another and bring Keith Earls into the team. With 62 caps to his name, Earls will miss the South Africa game due to injury but will hopeful of making an impact over the series, and BOD believes he is the best winger in Ireland on current form.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Friday night, O'Driscoll outlined his ideal back three which featured Earls as the first name down, but there was high praise for Ulster's Jacob Stockdale as well.

He's played his way into being the second best winger in Ireland, or the second most in-form winger, arguably the first.

I think, for me, Keith Earls is your first name down in the back three, he's been in some exceptional form since coming back from some injury-ravaged seasons. He's got a lovely mixture to his game, so it's unfortunate that he's injured this weekend (against South Africa), so he's your number one.

So Stockdale, I think, is now number two and, again, the combination of playing with Charles Piutau and obviously learning a lot from him playing for Ulster, he's come on very quickly in a short space of time.

He'd been touted as a future international, and not too far down the line, while he was playing for the Ireland U20s, and at 21 he's in taking his opportunity.

I don't think we've got a million wingers to choose from, so go with a guy that's pretty quick, very powerful, decent in the air, bundles of confidence, and knows where the try-line is. He's ticking all the boxes from an international winger perspective.

In terms of the fullback position, Brian O'Driscoll outlined what Rob Kearney brings to the position and also exactly why Joe Schmidt has been so loyal to the Leinster man who has had his fair share of detractors in recent times.

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His ability to kick and field kicks with consistency and reliability is what sets Kearney apart, the Irish rugby legend believes.

I think Rob Kearney is first-choice [at full back]. I think he's still, in Joe Schmidt's eyes - whether it's your eyes or my eyes it doesn't matter - in Joe Schmidt's eyes Rob Kearney is his number one.

He's never let him down internationally, and I think - maybe Rob doesn't have the counter-attacking game that he had once upon a time, but one thing that has never changed is his kicking game and his ability to field a ball.

That stability is something that Joe Schmidt craves and goes back to time and time again, and in big games in Europe with Leinster and internationally with Ireland, Rob Kearney has never disappointed Joe Schmidt and that's why he gets in his team whenever he is fit.

He actually looked incredibly sharp - and played 80 minutes - against Ulster last week. As someone who has played with him, and he is a friend of mine, I always do like the stability he provides in Irish teams.

Tried, tested, and trusted, Schmidt cares not for the perception of Kearney's club form, when it comes to Ireland it seems that the jersey is his until he plays his way out of it.

There is a lot to look forward to for Irish fans tuning in on Saturday evening, especially James Ryan who has been named on the bench, someone who O'Driscoll referred to as a 'superstar in the making'. With youth in the starting XV and on the bench, it will be interesting to see how can take their chance and stake a claim for a Six Nations starting spot.

You can listen to Brian O'Driscoll's chat with Ger Gilroy in full over on Newstalk.com.

Mikey Traynor

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