Former British and Irish Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll believes the retirement of Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip will hurt Ireland in the upcoming 2019 World Cup to be played in Japan.
The 34-year-old announced his decision to quit professional rugby on Monday after he failed to recover from a series of back problem since he sustained a lower back injury in the warm-up sessions ahead of Ireland's win over England in the 2017 Six Nations Championship.
Heaslip is at seventh position in Ireland's most capped player list that is topped by O'Driscoll having made 100 Test appearances including five for British and Irish Lions.
O'Driscoll feels even though Ireland's back row options are well stocked, the absence of a player of Heaslip's calibre will test Joe Schmidt's men in crunch matches.
“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.
“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.”
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