BRIAN O’DRISCOLL believes Robbie Henshaw can be Ireland’s next ‘‘seasoned campaigner’’ at outside centre.
Former captain O’Driscoll threw his backing behind the 20-year-old Connacht centre to succeed him in Ireland’s coveted number 13 shirt.
Iconic centre O’Driscoll is fit and ready to surpass George Gregan’s world-record 139 Test cap haul in Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations game with Italy on Saturday.
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But the 35-year-old rebuffed any sentiment ahead of his final Ireland bow at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, before his summer retirement.
Backing three-cap Henshaw to lead the next generation of midfield talent, O’- Driscoll said: ‘‘Robbie is a very, very talented young lad, who is a great listener, a really good young talent, and really good lad too.
‘‘I think he has all the attributes to be a seasoned campaigner for Ireland for many, many years.
‘‘And then you have the beauty of guys who have played there before in Luke Fitzgerald, someone like Jared Payne who qualifies in November.
‘‘As 13s absolutely Robbie and Darren Cave are wellplaced; we’ve an abundance of talent coming through.
‘‘I think it’s testament to Darren, who has not been in the frame for a while, but keeping an eye on his form for Ulster he’s been playing extremely well.
‘‘So I think we’re in a good place with guys coming through, and in no time no one will remember me!’’ O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy have been near everpresents in both Leinster and Ireland’s midfields since 2000.
Their combination stands alone as the world’s mostcapped centre duo, with O’- Driscoll clear why: near-telepathic understanding.
‘‘We just know each other’s style of play,’’ said O’Driscoll.
‘‘We’ve a good ability to be able to read what one another are thinking, and have a lot of comfort in being beside one another.
‘‘In a lot of new centre partnerships you need communication to be a huge aspect of your cohesion.
‘‘Whereas with us, not that there’s an air of telepathy, but there’s definitely an understanding that I don’t have with other people there, where I can see what he’s doing.’’