Brian O’Driscoll feels Ireland will miss Jamie Heaslip at next year’s World Cup and believes the retired number eight was never properly appreciated.
On Monday, Heaslip announced he was calling time on his career at age 34 due to a lower-back injury that has kept him out of action since last March.
Heaslip won 95 caps, three Six Nations titles and the 2009 Grand Slam, and played alongside O’Driscoll with Leinster and the British and Irish Lions.
And though O’Driscoll feels his country are well stocked in the back row, he also feels Heaslip’s absence will be felt at next year’s World Cup.
“I know lots of people really, really rated him but I don’t think people truly understood his value,” said O’Driscoll, who was speaking in Monaco his role as a Laureus ambassador.
“He’s a big-game player. He always turned up for big games, always. I never saw him play a sub-standard performance in a game where it really counted.
Mate huge congrats on an incredible career! All the best in the future. 👊🏼— George North (@George_North) February 26, 2018
“He was a very savvy rugby player. He cleaned up an awful lot of messy stuff – good link player, great athlete and an unbelievably good professional. He is a big loss.
“Ireland are in good shape in that position but what you don’t see is that rugby intellect in every player. I think he was one of the rare ones that he could put it all together. He had a real winning mentality.
“He is absolutely a loss for Ireland – to not have him in their 30-man squad for the World Cup, for me, will leave a little bit of a dent.
“A great opportunity for other guys but I’ve a lot of time for Jamie as a team-mate and as a player he was someone that you wanted in your team.
“I felt we were stronger for having had him in our team.”
– The Laureus World Sports Awards highlight sporting excellence and recognise those who use sport to change lives for the better. For more information, head to www.laureus.com/awards