Nigel Owens refereeing Ireland’s upcoming clash with New Zealand could prove to be crucial, according to Brian O’Driscoll.
O’Driscoll was speaking at Off The Ball's latest Rugby World Cup Roadshow in association with Heineken, where he was joined by fellow former Irish internationals Keith Wood and Malcolm O’Kelly.
Ireland’s most capped international was optimistic about his old side’s chances against the All Blacks and felt that Owens’ preference for free-flowing games could help the men in green.
“I think defence is everything and I think discipline is everything. If you don’t give away penalties, and I think that’s where Nigel Owens comes into play, he doesn’t like giving penalties.
“He likes a little bit of a free for all. So expect teams, especially at the ruck, to hold onto it for an awful lot longer.
“He wants those games of 45-40 where he doesn’t have to blow the whistle very often. He wants to be involved in them and it’s a great spectacle.
“It’s a good referee for us to get for this fixture but we have to get everything absolutely right if we want to live with them” O’Driscoll commented.
Ireland have had a mixed 2019 but were arguably the best team in the world the previous year.
For them to be successful against New Zealand, they’ll have to tap into the form that saw them overcome the same side less than 12 months ago.
“At the peak of our powers when we beat New Zealand we were just playing this game that no other team could live with.
“But I just think that other teams have now come to understand the game that we were playing and have come with a defence to deal with that.
“I think we’re being very tough on this Irish team to suggest they’re now not doing what they had been doing. They have to lift [their performance],” O’Kelly said.
While Schmidt’s side certainly haven’t reached the same heights they did in 2018 at this year’s Rugby World Cup, they did show some promise against Scotland and Samoa.
If they are to win on Saturday the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton will have to produce a performance worthy of last year’s award.
Catch the full #OTBBGET show which is being streamed on Thursday night across OTB's social channels and will also play on Thursday's Off The Ball PM show