Former Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald has said that Ireland are "still trying to fill the void left by Brian O’Driscoll" after Joe Schmidt’s side were defeated 22-9 by Wales in Cardiff on Friday.
Ireland were outscored three tries to nil in a pulsating contest at the Principality Stadium, but after the game question marks were once again raised over Ireland’s creativity in attack after Schmidt’s charges failed to cross the whitewash despite having more possession and territory.
Fitzgerald feels that Ireland’s inability to score on Friday stems from a long running issue to replace the creativity of Ireland’s all-time leading try scorer Brian O’Driscoll who retired from international rugby in 2014.
O’Driscoll and long time midfield partner Gordon D’Arcy have since been replaced by incumbents Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, but that Ireland’s current centre partnership must still be given time to grow and develop.
“We’re still probably trying to fill that void left by Brian O’Driscoll,” Fitzgerald said on Independent.ie’s The Left Wing.
“We miss his bit of creativity in that centre spot and that’s a really important area because that’s where you break teams down. It’s where you deliver passes and it’s where you have to make good decisions on the line.
“I think there’s still a bit of growth there for the two guys [Henshaw and Ringrose]. I think Robbie is superbly physical and I thought he was brilliant on the weekend. Obviously he’ll be a bit disappointed with his error but I actually thought he was our best back on the weekend, and I think Garry is still growing into it and I still think he’s finding his feet at international level.
“He’s a brilliant runner, there’s no doubt about that, he’s a great defender, it’s just putting other guys into space, that’s the growth for him.
“That’s the key area and I feel it’s why we haven’t broken teams down as much we’re just missing that Brian O’Driscoll-esque kind of player.”
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Ireland’s crucial half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will be fit to face England at the Aviva Stadium this weekend. Murray has responded well to a shoulder stinger injury while Sexton underwent a precautionary HIA.
Eddie Jones believes Ireland will be “grossly disappointed” that after letting their chances of winning the Six Nations slip last weekend and is expecting a reaction on Saturday when his champion England side roll into Dublin.
Well, our dreams and aspirations of a Championship are six foot under in an overcoat of clay. In the face of another chastening defeat our lofty pretensions embarrass us all to the point of reappraisal. There does not seem to be any middle ground with Joe Schmidt’s teams.