Sean O'Brien given the highest praise possible by New Zealand journalists
The Kiwis have seen a lot of Sean O'Brien over the years and they like what they see.
O'Brien had a storming 54 minutes in the British & Irish Lions victory over Crusaders, last weekend. It was the sixth time O'Brien came up against a team from New Zealand in his professional rugby career and his first time on the winning side.
The other five games were against the All Blacks themselves - close calls interspersed with hidings. He missed the Soldier Field heroics in Chicago and played a blinder in Dublin, two weeks later, only to taste defeat again.
'The Tullow Tank' has finally got one over a Kiwi outfit but he is well aware that greater challenges lie ahead, starting with the Maori All Blacks this weekend.
Lions fans are in no doubt of O'Brien's abilities, in defence and attack. So, it seems, are the Kiwis.
During the most recent episode of the Out of the Box podcast, New Zealand Herald reporters Daniel McHardy, Brian Ashby and Nigel Yalden collectively gushed about the Carlow man and his many, many talents. So went the following conversation:
McHardy: "I think it's fair to say Nigel that we're all card-carrying members of the Sean O'Brien fan-club."
Yalden: "Ohhhh, I'm the president buddy. I'm the president! I'd put him right up there with Richie McCaw. I know there will be some Kiwis that will want to curse me to damnation and back again but I think he is literally that good. I think he is quality.
Ashby: "Can you play them [Warburton and O'Brien] both?"
Yalden: "Their loose forwards have been very impressive in the four games so far. You've got to start Toby Faletau at 8. You would have to play CJ Stander at 6. Isn't that a guy who deserves the opportuinity to play? Who has earned it?"
McHardy: "Oh come on! Only the 37 carries in two games... !"
We, of course have a simple solution to this debate - O'Mahony, O'Brien, Stander.
And if you accused us of being biased, you'd be 100% correct.
O'Mahony and O'Brien get another chance to impress against the Maori All Blacks this weekend and are both so close to securing those Test jerseys.
One thing is for sure, the Kiwis believe O'Brien is streets ahead of Lions captain Sam Warburton.
It all comes down to one man though - a Kiwi himself but with a northern hemisphere slant - Warren Gatland.