'I'm not looking for Sonny Bill' – BOD defends Jared Payne and urges Ireland to take more risks
Brian O'Driscoll has re-iterated his belief that Jared Payne is an integral part of the current Ireland team, but believes his former team-mates will need to take more risks against better opposition.
Ireland followed up their opening Pool D victory over Canada with a comfortable bonus-point win over Romania at a packed Wembley yesterday where a number of players were given the opportunities to impress with sterner challenges looming against Italy, and in particular France.
Jared Payne was one of only three survivors from the Canada game and O'Driscoll's successor at outside centre continues to divide opinion.
The Ulster back has been targeted by some critics for a conservative attacking policy in the number 13 jersey, but O'Driscoll has dismissed such observations as "unfounded".
Ireland's record try scorer argued that Payne was one of the few looking for offloads against the European minnows and that this remains a part of the game that should be improved upon collectively, rather than individually.
"Jared Payne was one of the few guys looking for offloads, Chris Henry got a couple, Keith Earls, but you really need guys with the mind-set that they want to offload and that it is an option, rather than taking in another phase," he told Newstalk's Off The Ball programme tonight.
"I don't mind a guy that doesn't always offload.
"I'm not looking for Sonny Bill where the exception to the rule is he actually takes the ball to ground and they recycle. He's a bit of a freak from that point of view. He wouldn't in many ways be Joe Schmidt's type of player because not all of his off loads, some 50/50s, go to hand which would be definitely be a source of frustration for Joe.
"What I like about Jared is that he looks for it and if it's there great, but he doesn't force it. He'll take the ball into contact if he has to.
"I really have to say any of the stick he is gotten is completely unfounded. I really believe he is the glue in this team that is combining what we have at half-back with the talent we have on our wings and full-back now."
Similar to the last two successful Six Nations campaigns, Ireland have yet to demonstrate an expansive attacking game plan despite the strong weaponry at Schmidt's disposal.
While it has served the team well so far, the former captain believes more risks will need to be taken against superior opposition if Ireland are to progress far in the competition.
"We'll probably have to take a few more risks. We're at team that's very capable of bringing a team through multiple phases," he admitted.
"You look at the top quality sides in the world, where they don't appear to have to put in quite as much effort as we do for our scores or penalties.
"That comes down to an off-loading game and a small bit of risk taking. I don't think we take enough risks personally.
"Our first passage of play [against Romania] was over three minutes and we got nothing out of it. That would be the only concern for me."