It is now official. Brian O Driscoll has entered his final week as an Irish Rugby International. The Leinster and Ireland legend gave a faultless performance against a poor Italian side and with the help of a man of the match performance from O Driscoll, Ireland set up a showdown with France next week for the 6 nation’s title.
However, I am sure all Rugby fanatics are all wondering the same thing, who will take his place? It has been a theme throughout the week that people have looked back on the glittering career of possibly the greatest ever Irish sportsmen, but I want to look to the future and see who will be in the number 13 jersey once the curtain finally closes on BODs career.
Here is just one example of what he has given us:
These are the 4 players that in my opinion will be fighting for that jersey:
At just 20 years old, Henshaw is by far the most inexperienced option to play at 13. With just over a year until Ireland begin their World Cup campaign, it has been suggested that it may just be too much too soon for the young man. However, O Driscoll said himself that Henshaw is the man to take his place in an interview with Sky Sports.
Henshaws potential is undeniable. He has pace to burn and has maturity beyond his years with regards to his decision making on the pitch. The fact that his is currently playing at Connacht right now is a great benefit to him, as they will give him the necessary game time to gain that much needed experience.
Fitzgerald is one of the best talents to come out of the famous Blackrock College over the last ten years. He certainly has the qualities in his came to play at outside centre on a regular basis but in recent years there have been question marks over his fitness.
Fitzgerald is by far the only option available that has substantial international experience with 27 caps for his country as well as going on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour where he was famously eye gouged by Schalk Burger. Possible his downfall in this battle for the 13 jersey is the fact that for all his experience, very little of it is from playing at 13 but rather at wing or fullback, therefore it is tough to call him a ‘natural’ replacement.
The emerging Brendon Macken (Leinster), is an extremely promising option. Another product of Blackrock College, Macken has shown good attacking ability as well as good defensive maturity for someone so young.
His performance against the Ospreys for Leinster at the Liberty Stadium showed that Macken has discipline as well as the creativity to unlock a defence. At the start of next season there will surely be a battle between Fitzgerald and Macken to see who gets the 13 jersey at Leinster. Once that is decided we will be a step closer to finding Irelands next outside centre.
My final choice as an option for 13, Payne has certainly been one of Ulsters best players over the last 2 years. The New Zealand native has said that he will be declaring for Ireland once he is eligible and has shown great qualities at outside centre since he has come to these shores.
However one thing that is working against him at the moment is that due to an early season injury to Stuart Olding, Payne has played much of his rugby at fullback. What is clear is that if he wants a place in the Irish team he needs regular game time at 13.
One thing is definitely certain, no matter how well any one of these players do, they will never achieve what Brian O Driscoll has in his career and the nation as a whole is going to miss him as a character as well as a Rugby player.
Please vote below and tell me who should be the next Irish 13 and comment below if you feel someone has been left out: