BOD relishing Earls link-up
Brian O'Driscoll has expressed his delight at the influx of young talent in the Ireland squad ahead of Saturday's Test against Canada.
Last Updated: 07/11/08 7:38am
Captain Brian O'Driscoll has expressed his delight at the influx of young talent in the new-look Ireland squad ahead of Saturday's opening autumn Test against Canada.
O'Driscoll, who will captain his country for the 49th time against Canada at Thomond Park, will be part of one of the youngest Irish backlines for some time.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has selected a back-line with an average age of 25, with debutant full-back Keith Earls (21), centre Luke Fitzgerald (21) and winger Rob Kearney (22) adding a fresh input.
And O'Driscoll, an elder statesman in the back unit at 29, reserved special praise for Munster back Earls, a player the Ireland skipper can't wait to play alongside for the first time on Saturday.
"I think Keith's been probably the in-form back in Ireland this season," he said.
"The great thing about his first selection is that it seems to be a selection picked on form and I think it's important to reward form.
"Irrespective of how old you are or how young you are, if you're producing the goods on a weekly basis and you're training well on a daily basis when you come into squads you're putting your hat in the ring to be selected.
"I'm looking forward to playing with him. He's a very exciting player.
"I don't want to build things up too much because it's about growing into international rugby but, at the same time, if he gets those basics right, I know he can create things as well.
"It will be about running off him and trying to give him those options. It's very exciting to be involved in a backline with him."
Another benefit coach Kidney has with having the likes of Earls on board is the versatile back can play in three different positions.
The Moyross native was ever-present on the left wing during the Ireland U20s' Grand Slam campaign in 2007 and he has played at full-back and centre for Munster this season.
With Fitzgerald and Kearney also capable of switching positions, that versatility is a sign of progress according to O'Driscoll.
"It's an important aspect in moving forward. You see other teams doing it, particularly the French where they have guys that can play in three or four different positions in the backline," he added.
"Sometimes we pigeon-hole ourselves a little bit in to just being specialists in one position - there's no reason why you can't be a specialists in two or three different positions.
"By guys playing in different positions, whether it be for their province or country, they're gaining more experience so they're getting more confident and comfortable playing there.
"It's certainly a good progression. You want to get your best players on the pitch. Just because you've got three great centres, one guy shouldn't be left out.
"If he can play on the wing, well fantastic."