Richard Dunne believes that Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clarke could be Ireland's centre-back pairing for years to come and that Premier League football is vital for their development.
artin O'Neill has an expanding pool of centre-backs but only Duffy and Clarke will be working in the toughest environment of them all.
"Hopefully the two of them will become regular Premier League players. The likelihood is they are going to be severely tested every week and it's going to be a tough year for them," Dunne said.
"But if they come through that and stay in the Premier League, that's great because you have two good centre-halves for the next 10 years maybe. It's not as if there are hundreds of Irish players knocking down the door at Premier League clubs in any position.
"England complain too about the lack of players they have to choose from in the Premier League so we're further behind them again. It's about getting the best from what we've got.
"It looks like in future it will be Ciaran and Shane Duffy at centre-half and the more games they get the more the bond builds and partnership grows."
Dunne, helping to promote a new app from eir with John Hayes and Geordan Murphy, reckons O'Neill must throw Cyrus Christie, regardless of fitness or form, in against Austria.
"We don't have many options. It's a one-off match at the end of the season. You can nearly get through it just on adrenaline alone.
"It's a big match, everyone will be up for it and when you're not playing much or carrying a knock and you get dragged in over the course of two or three weeks, you start to get found out because you're not training behind the scenes, you're fitness is dropping," claimed Dunne. "But I've found a lot of times you can get away with it for 90 minutes but the more you do it the more you get found out.
"I think the selection of the side is secondary for Ireland. There is no major superstar, it's all about the team and that's where the results come from."
Dunne doesn't rule out a surprise selection for Austria.
"I'd imagine he'll have it in his mind and it won't be as straightforward as people think. He's never been afraid to throw a person into the team out of the blue if he sees something in training."
Dunne dismisses the notion that O'Neill is about to follow the fashion for a three-man defence.
"It's difficult, you need to have good centre-halves who are comfortable playing at full-back. I think that's why (Cesar) Azpilicueta does well. Even (Nacho) Monreal in the last couple of weeks has done well, because they are used to being dragged out wide and can play in the full-back position where the normal centre-half, the last thing you want is your full-back deserting you and you being dragged out wide and having to face wingers. If you're going to start thinking about it, think about it for a couple of years. No, Ireland have been brilliant. There's no need for anything drastic.
"There is not a major tactical discussion about where to play, where to run. It's about work rate and mucking in for the rest of the team and whatever happens at the end of the match, Ireland are on the right side of the result."
Dunne continues to enjoy life in Monaco but his son Tayo's first steps in football have drawn him kicking and screaming back into the world of coaching. He may even do his badges. "I don't know, I think there are enough people who do it," he said laughing. "I was thinking of doing my badges later in the year. But not with any intention really, you just don't know."
Dunne has had a jarring introduction to Academy life in England while trying to find a club for Tayo.
"It's like a factory. I was at a tournament last week, speaking to the Academy Directors or recruitment people at Everton. They were saying their kids train four days per week, including one-on-one sessions, yoga, strength, hand coordination sessions and the game on a Saturday. That's five days per week. This was an U-9 tournament."