He was speaking on this week's Off The Ball
Brian O'Driscoll believes Garry Ringrose's performance against France and in recent months have been enough to put him in contention as Ireland's long term number 13.
Ireland beat France by 10 points last Saturday afternoon and kept the heat on England at the top of the Six Nations standings. While the returning Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray got most of the plaudits for the performance, O'Driscoll pointed out the positives in Ringrose's display.
"I think if you had gotten a really dry day on Saturday, Garry Ringrose makes those half breaks because that’s the difference between a scrag and being dragged back. I thought he had an eight out of 10 game."
Ringrose has made a number of appearances for Ireland since the end of last year and Saturday's performance was arguably one of his best in a green shirt.
"Other than his missed tackle on [Gael] Fickou early on that led to the [Baptiste] Serin break, where he actually just came up really hard and probably his aggressive line speed worked against him. Other than that, I thought it wasn’t one for the pretty outside centre, it was a roll your sleeves up and in heavy traffic. He still looks wiry and his frame needs size but he packs a punch still and he’s aggressive in his carry."
There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding the return of Jared Payne who suffered a kidney injury in Ireland's win over Australia in November.
Payne came off the bench last Sunday and played the last 20 minutes in Ulster’s 40-17 win over Zebre. The 31-year-old seemed to be the nailed on number 13 before his injury but with the rapid rise of Ringrose, O’Driscoll thinks Payne may have to look to another position or settle with being on the bench.
"I think Garry Ringrose is Ireland's 13 now. I think Joe [Schmidt] is pretty happy with him. I think he has the ability now whether it’s him doing it off his own bat or whether Andy Farrell [Ireland’s defence coach] is allowing him to show up hard and almost blitz on his own on occasions, forcing first and second receivers into bad loopy passes or going back inside.
"I love that as a player, growing with confidence in being willing to take that defensive system into his own hands as well."
Ireland's Garry Ringrose evades the tackle of Louis Picamoles of France. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
O’Driscoll then went on to stand up for Ringrose for some of his defensive play in Ireland’s opening game against Scotland, whereby the 22-year-old received some criticism.
"If you take the first few minutes in isolation the [Stuart] Hogg first try certainly wasn’t his fault. They [Ireland] were massively outnumbered on the blind side when there was no attack there. So he was left to hang out and dry because [Tommy] Seymour was out on the wing as well, so he had to try and think of a cover kick as well.
"The second Hogg try was a little bit naive, where he got caught off the five man line out where he went to try and rip the ball and he stayed in the tackle for too long. I think he’s a smart guy. You need to learn from these things, he’s only 22 years of age. The only way of actually getting better at those is by making a mistake sometimes. Sometimes you get away with it and other times you are really punished by it."
Asked about the return of Jared Payne, O’Driscoll said: "Payne added a great dimension in the summer at 15. In the future that might be his position. Rob Kearney has had some big performances when he has needed them over them over the last few months."
Ireland's team selection will be announced midway through next week as they prepare for a huge encounter against Wales on March 10th.
Ireland will be looking to make it three wins in-a-row, while Wales will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat.
Words: Robert Fanning.