Rugby

Brian O'Driscoll Names 3 Irish Players As 'Irreplaceable' In Current Team

Brian O'Driscoll Names 3 Irish Players As 'Irreplaceable' In Current Team

Simon Zebo already has his bags packed, and now Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander are being courted by clubs in England and France, so it's understandable that many Irish rugby fans are nervous as 10 notable players are due to renegotiate their contracts with the IRFU before next summer.

The fact that a trip abroad results in the end of your Ireland career is a dilemma for any player with a World Cup on the horizon, but when it comes to players like O'Mahony, it's also a detriment to the Irish team.

The loss of Simon Zebo was made to look less significant by the outstanding performances of Jacob Stockdale over the November tests, and while O'Mahony is one of the natural leaders in this Irish team, Brian O'Driscoll would not place the Munster man in the 'irreplaceable' category despite his clear importance to the setup.

Speaking to ESPN Scrum, O'Driscoll stated that he believes the only irreplaceable players in the Irish team at the moment are Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, and Tadhg Furlong.

Johnny Sexton or Conor Murray or a Tadhg Furlong, I think those three names, if any of those were seen overseas the gulf between them and the next player is so vast that I think they'd have to pick them.

Is Peter O'Mahony completely irreplaceable? Maybe not, albeit he's a shoo-in to the team right now, the strength of that back row is in a good spot. It will be a difficult decision for Peter O'Mahony.

He's a young family too and he's 28 years of age so he's got to think about multiple things.

Obviously [there's] the carrot of the World Cup in 2019 but it's a short career and people have to maximise their earnings while they can. In many players' cases they will not be able to earn to that capacity again when they finish up playing. So, you've got to make hay while sun shines.

It's about making sure you make the right decision from your rugby perspective, but also from your family and your security perspective. There are some difficult decisions ahead for some of those key players.

It is entirely fair enough if any player does decide to take the hugely rewarding decision to play abroad, and in terms of depth at this moment in time, the back-row is arguably where we are best stocked.

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That said, the first-choice three of O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, and CJ Stander are so good that it would be a real shame to break-up that dynamic. While Murray and Sexton are unquestionably vital to the success of Joe Schmidt's side, it speaks volumes about the performances of Tadhg Furlong that he's also now in that bracket.

Do you agree with O'Driscoll? Or are there other players in the Ireland squad you feel we would struggle to cope without?

Mikey Traynor

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