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O'Driscoll mourns 'big loss' of Ireland's best player in the autumn

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Injured Ireland No8 Caelan Doris was their “best player in the autumn” according to the legendary  Brian O’Driscoll, who took to social media to outline his disappointment when it that he back row had pulled out of the squad for Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations opener versus Wales.  

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The Leinster loose forward has been tipped to lead the Ireland back row in Cardiff but he was ruled out with symptoms associated with concussion. Connacht’s Quinn Roux was also ruled out with a neck complaint. 

Doris, 22, was man of the match against both Wales and Scotland in the Autumn Nations Cup and was expected to start at the Principality Stadium for an Ireland team that now has Paul O’Connell on its coaching staff. O’Driscoll has now described his absence as a “big loss to the squad” owing to what he offers with the ball in hand. 

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Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton set the scene ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign
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Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton set the scene ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign

“Big loss to the squad this weekend is Doris,” O’Driscoll wrote on Twitter. “He was comfortably Ireland’s best player in November. Gives a different sort of go forward with his footwork and leg drive to the other back row ball carriers. Who comes in now? Josh to 7 and Pete to 6?”

The No8 is slightly more elusive when taking the ball into contact compared to his fellow Irish forwards where he utilises his pace and footwork to make the ground he does. On top of that, he bolsters Ireland’s lineout options with his 1.93m frame. 

Former Ireland captain O’Driscoll now anticipates a back row reshuffle which will see CJ Stander start at the back of the scrum with his Munster teammate Peter O’Mahony at blindside flanker and Josh van der Flier at openside. 

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This is the combination that many others are predicting on social media, although Tadhg Beirne and Rhys Ruddock are two other options that have been suggested. Those two would give the back row a different complexion to one that included van der Flier. 

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