'If Jared Payne is dropped for Italian game...' - Brian O'Driscoll praises Ireland's number 13
Ireland's record tryscorer Brian O'Driscoll believes Jared Payne has become a vital cog in Joe Schmidt's plans and is a certainty to start Ireland biggest games.
The New Zealand-born centre was on the mark in last week's facile 50-7 triumph over Canada and O'Driscoll view him as central to Ireland chances in the tournament.
"He's probably the sixth or seventh name on the team. That's how important he's become," BOD said on Off The Ball
"I understand the 13 position quite well, particularly defensively, you've got to be a good tackler but you've got to be able to read things in a split second.
"I think he's doing a really good job and he's becoming the glue to our really effective half-back pairing.
"Just being able to be a good distributor without having to do anything crazy fancy himself. He's creating space for the guys outside.
"First and foremost, he's defensively super sound
"He has lovely touches, he reads the game well, he sees opportunities. He was the one that called the cross-field kick from Johnny early on in the game last week and his kick through got blocked down but that was unfortunate because Johnny was running after it.
"He plays really smart head up rugby and Joe has an innate understanding that Jared thinks that way.
"You're looking on enviously and I had player cam on when I was the game
"He was blowing really hard early on, and I thought that if he was blowing hard then it must be fast because he's a fit guy but he still got the try in the end, he was still making those speed repeats.
"If he's dropped for the Italian game, I'm not coming back in here. He's a different sort of centre than what's been there before but that doesn't mean that he's not just as effective."
Payne partners Darren Cave in the centre for Ireland this weekend against Romania at Wembley.