Rory Best has insisted that Ireland can cope with the retirement of its greatest player if Brian O'Driscoll follows through on his threat to retire at the end of this season.
“People can't go on indefinitely and at some stage they have to retire,” said the Irish hooker, who also insisted his side have enough ambition of their own without wanting to win a potential swansong title for their former captain.
“But the good thing with this Ireland squad now is there are so many young players who don't fear anything.
“If you tell them tomorrow that Brian isn't playing they'll say ‘that's a shame, he's a cracking player' and they will move on.
“Some of the older guys like me who have been part of Ireland teams where Brian has bailed us out time and time again, it would maybe affect us differently, losing a talisman like that.
“But you see the way he's playing now when he came back for Leinster and you would envisage it will be the same this weekend for Ireland.
“While he is still playing well, he is still the best 13 we have, so play him until maybe he's not or he decides he's had enough.
“Only one person will be able to answer that and be that in a couple of months and that will be Brian.
“Regardless of whether it's his last Six Nations or not, as a player group we want to win things and I don't think it gives us any extra incentive.
“We know what we're going to get from Brian from the way he plays on the pitch and the way he leads off it and I don't see that changing whether it's his last or not.
“I look around the group we have and there is a lot of people who have won things and a lot who want to win more. That's not going to change whether it's someone's last campaign or not.
“I haven't really thought about life without him around. In the past, when it has been talked about, not necessarily by himself, he has always been there and always played. He is such a talisman.”
Wales, who yesterday confirmed a shock debut for second-row Andrew Coombs, will insist on the Millennium Stadium roof remaining open tomorrow and Irish coach Declan Kidney is likely to agree.
“It hasn't got nasty,” added Best of the teams' rivalry. “We've just been on the wrong side of the results in the last three games and we'renot happy about that.”
l Ireland's November Test matches will be broadcast live by Sky Sports for the first time from next year.
The IRFU yesterday announced a four-year deal with the broadcaster up to and including 2017.
Ireland's autumn games, which often feature clashes against the likes of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, are currently screened live by the BBC.
“The addition of Sky Sports as a partner promises to be beneficial to the game in Ireland,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.
“Sky Sports has built a reputation as one of the top broadcasters of rugby over the last 10 years and are synonymous with the professional game at both European and international levels
“The IRFU believe Sky Sports coverage of our November internationals will be a wonderful platform for Irish rugby.”