Judging by his performance against Japan on Saturday, Ronan O'Gara believes that Johnny Sexton will not be relinquishing the Ireland number 10 jersey any time soon.
The 36-year-old's predecessor as Ireland's first choice out-half thinks Andy Farrell will stick with the same team that beat Japan for this weekend's clash with the All Blacks, and will then use the game against Argentina to build more experience in his squad.
"There's a new challenge now in New Zealand this weekend, Japan will be long forgotten in [Johnny Sexton's] head, and he has to perform this week, and that's what he's done 100 times," said O'Gara at the announcement of his partnership with Benetti.
"The reality is it gets harder and harder, especially at that age because you have to train between those games, unless you have a very, very accommodating coach who leaves you off until Thursday, but that doesn't happen too often in the Test game.
"What has happened from Ireland as a result of being so good against Japan, I think now Farrell will probably make very few changes this weekend.
"Ireland have a great opportunity to get a performance and potentially result against New Zealand. Then, if that was the case, for Argentina maybe you have the capacity to maybe make six or seven or eight changes to your team with a view to increasing competition, for being better prepared for the challenges of a World Cup."
O'Gara continued: "The World Cup is still 24 months away, it's an awful long way away. A year in sport is very, very long, 24 months is very far away. What will be clear probably after the November blocks is seven or eight key games where at the end of that you probably know whether you have another out-half challenging, or another two out-halves challenging.
"Obviously Johnny is such a huge presence and he brings a massive amount of leadership and pull to the team. The fact that so many players want to play for him, you saw at the weekend how on side he is with all the boys and what it meant for him to score for all his team mates. It brought them huge joy and that’s the most important thing in the sport but what can also happen is you’re only as strong as who you finish with.
"If Johnny doesn’t play 80 [minutes], who plays 30? If Joey plays 50 and Johnny plays 30 or if Harry Byrne plays 50 and Johnny plays 30 you have to make sure that these boys are in an environment that they’re getting the best out of it.
“The reality is that having such a massive presence like Johnny Sexton there or on the bench, it’s probably hard for younger guys, but it’s the same with a number of other players down through the years.
"If Johnny’s in the top two in the country, which he is, he’s going to be in the squad so the other out-half has to get used to that. But it is a very interesting management situation that the coaches will find themselves in because one out-half isn’t going to win you the World Cup, you need two."
Picture credits: Sportsfile