Former England out-half Stuart Barnes feels Johnny Sexton needs to reassess his approach if he is to continue playing at elite international level.
The Leinster and Ireland out-half suffered a knee injury that means he will also miss Ireland's opening Six Nations games.
The setback has thrown Ireland's half-back options into sharp relief ahead of an anticipated evolution by incoming head coach Andy Farrell.
Barnes joined Off The Ball on Tuesday alongside ex-Ireland captain Keith Wood. But for Barnes, ex-Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt's policy of relying on the tried-and-tested partnership of Sexton and Conor Murray has been detrimental in terms of the development of the other Irish half-back options.
"I think it's very difficult for the next generation of Irish '9's and '10's," he said.
"Because I think Joe Schmidt over-played the trust hand with Conor and Johnny. It felt to me that even on the other side of the Irish Sea, that if Sexton and Murray aren't there, 'What are we going to do?' It's no way to plan for international rugby."
At scrum-half at least, Ulster's John Cooney has stated his case impressively, having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad.
"I think Cooney has been the best scrum-half in Ireland for nine months," said Barnes.
"And club and European form doesn't necessarily translate to international. But it does demand and opportunity and I think Andy Farrell now has got to start giving these opportunities.
"I think the same applies to Johnny. I wouldn't be quite as optimistic as Keith on this one. He was playing okay in the months leading up to the World Cup. But I don't think we've seen the Johnny Sexton from 2018. And frankly, I think if he is going to play at a high level of international rugby and challenge for Lions honours in 2021, I think he's got to reassess the way he plays.
"He's a very brave fly-half and he defends very hard. But he's got to give his body a chance now and he's got to take, if you like, the Cipriani approach and think, 'Hey, I run these shows now. I don't have to prove myself physically'. And I just think he's got to, when he gets back, just take a little time out and be a little less physical."
He also added that if Sexton is still Ireland's No 1 out-half in two years, "he's either a miracle man or Ireland are pushing things too far".
Barnes also predicted that he will be "more influential and dominant in the blue of Leinster than the green of Ireland".
You can also watch the full chat with Stuart Barnes and Keith above via our YouTube channel.
Everyone’s in the Team Of Us.
Vodafone. The Official Sponsor of the Irish Rugby Team.