'James Ryan definitely in the post-World Cup captaincy conversation' - Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll insists he is one of the 58%* that believes Ireland can win the World Cup.
Back on August 24, that number would have been a lot lower. Ireland got trollied 57-15 by England and the nation feared for another underperforming World Cup squad. Two wins against Wales have bolstered belief, somewhat, and Brian O'Driscoll is hear to tell us Joe Schmidt's men can get the job done in Japan.
The Irish rugby legend captained his country at two World Cups after he took up the role from Keith Wood. Under O'Driscoll, Ireland failed to escape their group, in 2007, and they beat Australia and Italy on their way to a quarter final, four years later. It was better, but it was not enough.
This time around, though, O'Driscoll believes Schmidt, his old Leinster and Ireland coach, has a squad that can surpass anything we have seen before. The former Leinster, Ireland and Lions captain spoke with Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby (full episode out this Thursday) about his country's upcoming World Cup campaign.
"It was a good Irish performance [against Wales] particularly in the second half when they ramped it up and controlled it well," says O'Driscoll. "What was most important was the ability to go through the gears, and have that physicality.
"There were some big performances from some key individuals. It was good to see Conor Murray back. Rob Kearney was very effective and James Ryan is going to be such a huge player for Ireland over the next decade or so, if he can stay injury free is important. To have those sort of players humming was great.
"You can be sure that those players believe. They absolutely believe they can win it and now is the time for the country to get in behind them and show their belief as well.
"And there's no doubt, you can sense it. Whether it is through social media, through loved ones at home, or seeing it in the stands, if your fans get behind you and they genuinely belief it, that can be the extra incentive."
As he touched on Ryan's potential decade of dominance in the Irish second row, it is put to O'Driscoll that the Leinster lock is the long-term captain in waiting for his country.
"He seems like a very level-headed guy. Obviously, with Rory Best hanging up his boots after the World Cup, they are going to be looking for someone.
"You could do worse than thinking long-term. Even though he is a young guy, he's clearly got the respect of the lads and you could do worse than going to one of your best players as a leader, particularly the way he carries himself. He'll definitely be in the conversation, that's for sure."
Ryan, were he to get the captaincy after the World Cup, would be 23 and 7 months when the 2020 Six Nations rolled around. To get an endorsement like that from O'Driscoll, who led Ireland for the first time (an 18-9 win over Australia in 2002) when he was 23 and 10 months, is as ringing as it gets.
WATCH THE LATEST HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE:
The latest episodes sees Leinster star James Lowe join Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery to discuss his time in Ireland, Leinster teammates and how he reckons Joe Schmidt's men will fare at the World Cup.