Brian O'Driscoll has backed Sean O'Brien to continue as a 'leader' for Ireland until the World Cup despite speculation the flanker will sign for London Irish after the showpiece event in Japan.
Comparisons to Simon Zebo's exile from the international set-up once he signed for Racing 92 have been made but O'Brien will be under the Irish system's control until after the World Cup later this year.
Speaking on Off the Ball on Friday, O'Driscoll told Ger: "You have to remember Joe Schmidt is leaving after the World Cup too. And, maybe if there was a situation where it was a 50/50 call between him and a Josh van Der Flier or a Dan Leavy for one reason or another, maybe then, it would work against him but ultimately because Joe is gone - he wants his best squad.
"He's not thinking about the future - he's thinking about his best players, his best leader - those who can win him a World Cup or get to a final of a World Cup. And, Sean O'Brien, from a mentality point of view...his communication and what he offers the team from a voice perspective - I was listening to the game a couple of time and I turned the volume up a good bit and all you could hear was English voices.
"For literally 63 or 64 minutes until Sean came in - you couldn't hear an Irish voice.
"I understand when you're on the back foot - it's difficult to get your communication up but that's probably the time to do it all the more but Owen Farrell was more talkative than the referee.
"And, he wasn't talking to the ref - he was just chatting in defence non-stop. And, it's hard not to be...amazed by his engine, his willingness to be relentless - it is just never ending. Even in collisions, he was shouting through collisions.
"You get that with Seany the whole time. If you listen to the referee mic - anytime he's in and around the ruck, Sean has quite a distinctive voice as well, so you'll hear a lot of that squeakiness and constant talk and it's reaffirmation to the referee of what's happening.
"It's the small little chat that gives the rest of the team confidence to get off the line to play and when he shouts 'It's out', everyone takes a step forward and that's what leadership is really about," he added.
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