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05th Mar 2023

Brian O’Driscoll on the nine players in world rugby he’s most excited to watch

Patrick McCarry

“I was like, ‘What?!’

Brian O’Driscoll has no hesitation when he is asked for the one young player that most impressed him when called in to train with Ireland, when he was still playing.

Having played for Ireland from 1999 to 2014, O’Driscoll has seen some of this country’s best ever players when they were first making their mark in the senior game. For him, though, Garry Ringrose was the outstanding prospect.

We are sitting with O’Driscoll at the Old Belvedere club-house, on a Wednesday morning, and he recalls the last-minute text messages he and his Leinster teammates used to get before training sessions. The car-park, just down below, is where he and teammates like Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie used to change, out the back of cars or in nearby Portakabins before heading out to train.

By the time Ringrose came into the Leinster set-up, the team had a professional infrastructure in place that is the envy of most other sides in world rugby. Before Ringrose made his Leinster bow, though, he was an Ireland U20 called in to train with his heroes, chief among them being O’Driscoll.

“Immediately,” O’Driscoll tells us, “you could see he got it – angles of running. Some of that is not a learned skill, it’s innately part of your rugby make-up and your understanding of how the game works. So when you do identify that in someone, it really stands them apart from their peers, and I thought that was so evident in Garry from very early on.”

O’Driscoll can still recall his surprise, in 2014, when Ringrose was called back in to train with the senior squad after not being picked in the Ireland U20s team. The loss for the underage side ultimately benefitted Ringrose as he got another sampling of the top-class senior set-up overseen by Joe Schmidt.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that Brian O’Driscoll names Garry Ringrose as one of the main players in world rugby that gets him, as a spectator and pundit, excited when they take in a game. Some of the other names mentioned may surprise you, though.

Brian O'DriscollGarry Ringrose of Ireland. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Brian O’Driscoll names nine players that excite him most

After the 2022 Six Nations wrapped up, we asked Brian O’Driscoll to name the five best young players in the northern hemisphere.

This time around, we got him to name the players that he is most excited to watch in big games. The first name that comes to his mind shows the respect he has for this young Ireland star.

“Caelan Doris. Ardie Savea. I think Samu Kerevi is very exciting. Garry Ringrose and Finn Russell are very exciting.

“Damian Penaud and Antoine Dupont, too, and Lukhanyo Am. Santiago Carreras, the Argentinean who plays for Gloucester, is a very exciting player who probably doesn’t get the headlines that the others would get. But there’s a snappy nine!”

So, that list again in order of their mentions from the great man himself:

  • Caelan Doris (Ireland)
  • Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
  • Samu Kerevi (Australia)
  • Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
  • Finn Russell (Scotland)
  • Damian Penaud (France)
  • Antoine Dupont (France)
  • Lukhanyo Am (South Africa)
  • Santiago Carreras (Argentina)


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