After another disappointing weekend for Ireland in the Six Nations, Brian O'Driscoll assessed why no contender at out-half is coming close to Johnny Sexton.
While it has been well noted that Johnny Sexton will be 38-years-old when the 2023 World Cup kicks off in France, Ireland's attempts to find a suitable replacement for him at out-half have been left wanting.
"I think we are struggling at #10 to be brutally honest," explained Brian O'Driscoll during Tuesday's OTB AM. "I just feel that the gulf is still so considerable from Johnny Sexton down to the next player."
Unavailable through injury for Sunday's defeat to France, Sexton's absence presented opportunities for Ulster's Billy Burns and Leinster's Ross Byrne to demonstrate their suitability for the role.
However, allowing that Joey Carbery, the player who had been primed to take over from Sexton at #10, has endured numerous injury set-backs, O'Driscoll is not convinced Ireland have a viable back-up.
"For all the people calling for Johnny Sexton to be culled," noted the former Ireland captain, "his best is still considerably the best in Ireland - by a long shot.
"I can understand why he still has such an important role within that set-up because we saw the alternative at the weekend and unfortunately it is not to the lofty standards set by Ireland in recent years.
"Right now if you said to me would I like Johnny Sexton in the 23-man squad for the World Cup, I would say yes. There is no obvious alternative."
Since taking charge for the 2020 Six Nations, Andy Farrell has so far run through Sexton, Byrne and Burns at out-half.
"We need creativity and vision which I just don't know what with the speed of test match rugby whether the two #10s at the weekend are capable of delivering," he noted of the performances in Sexton's absence. "I just think their ceiling is not where we needs it to be.
"I feel for the likes of Garry Ringrose because he's having to create for himself in the wider channels, Keith Earls is running after kicks all day. It cannot be easy for those guys."
Although O'Driscoll was keen to point out that Ireland's disappointing run of recent form is not simply down to issues at #10, he nevertheless believes that it may be time for Farrell to call in another option from the cold.
"I actually think at this stage it is worthwhile giving Jack Carty another go," he reasoned, the Connacht out-half not having played for Ireland since the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
"He probably presents a little bit more from an attacking point of view. He goes to the line quite aggressively and he's very capable of running with the ball himself.
"I don't think he does it as well as Johnny Sexton, but he definitely takes a step and hits the pass a little bit more than the two boys at the weekend. Maybe it is time to see if he deserves that second shot at it."
You can watch back Brian O'Driscoll's assessment of Ireland's defeat to France on OTB AM here.
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