Sunday 22 September 2019

'You feel a real cohesion with Bundee and Robbie' - Brian O'Driscoll weighs in on centre selection dilemma

Bundee Aki, left, in conversation with Robbie Henshaw of Ireland during the Guinness Summer Series match between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Bundee Aki, left, in conversation with Robbie Henshaw of Ireland during the Guinness Summer Series match between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Brian O'Driscoll says he expects Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw to be Ireland's first-choice centre partnership at the World Cup after the duo performed well against Wales in the final warm-up match.

Aki was named in his familiar role of inside centre while Henshaw was moved further out to a role he has previously thrived in.

The pair previously combined for Connacht during their PRO12 title-winning campaign before the latter moved to Leinster in 2016. Injuries have meant that Joe Schmidt has had to use different centre combinations over the last few years, with Garry Ringrose the other player to feature significantly in midfield.

However, the Leinster star has suffered from a loss of form in recent times, with Henshaw slotting into the 13 jersey to great effect against Wales.

With less than two weeks to go until Ireland face Scotland in their World Cup opener, O'Driscoll gave his view on Ireland's centres.

"I thought he'd play at the weekend if he was first choice," O'Driscoll said of Garry Ringrose.

"His tackling stats probably don't stack up. He has a lot of misses, but a lot of it is shutting down potential threats and getting the cover to pick up another tackle or finish one off.

"I don't think he's quite at the Garry Ringrose level we've seen over the last couple of years. So he'll be a bit nervous that he'll be on the bench given the partnership Bundee and Robbie have had since down in Connacht.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"They seem to go quite well and have a good understanding, good offloading game to one another, good defensively. So if you were a betting man you'd probably think that might be the starting centre pairing.

"He [Henshaw] doesn't miss many tackles. I don't know his stats, but watching him he doesn't miss many. His scramble is really exceptional.

"Even, you know the try-saving tackle on Dan Biggar. That’s a phenomenal bit of technique as well as the will within him. They are real markers for coaches as well. The never-say-die attitude, coaches love that.

"Having one of your best defenders is a real luxury. I think Garry's a brilliant reader of it, but Robbie's another level of a defender because he has the aggression and the size in the hit to come with that.

"That element of telepathy, I don't know what the chat is like with Garry, but you feel a real cohesion with Bundee and Robbie."

Brian O'Driscoll was announcing Guinness as the official sponsors of belief.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport