O’Driscoll relishing bright future

Brian O'Driscoll insists Ireland are entering an exciting new era with the emergence of back row prospects Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris. [more]

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Brian O’Driscoll insists Ireland are entering an exciting new era with the emergence of back row prospects Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris.

Heaslip, 22, and Ferris, 21, will make their Test debuts against the Pacific Islands as the Irish attempt to complete a clean sweep of victories from their autumn series.

The back row is a position of strength for Ireland and O’Driscoll, who will win his 70th cap tomorrow, believes they may have uncovered two more potential first-team regulars.

"Jamie perhaps could have been capped before but he’s been given his opportunity now," said the Leinster and Ireland skipper.

"He had a big season for Leinster last season and this year he has again been a real talisman for the province. He gives us great go-forward. He’s an incredibly explosive runner.

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"From a Leinster perspective there was always a real worry that when Victor Costello retired there would be a void at number eight.

"But Jamie came in and plugged that hole immediately. He has a good football brain and he’s got plenty of strings to his bow.

"He’s also a very likeable and exuberant character and he’s good to have around the squad.

"Obviously, I don’t know as much about Stephen Ferris as the other guys, but from what I’ve seen from training and also playing against Ulster, I can’t believe the guy is only 21.

"Paul O’Connell came back from the gym yesterday and said, ‘Did anyone see the weights that fella Ferris was lifting?’.

"He was lifting some phenomenal weights. That just shows that the guy has really put in the work.

"Even at training he’s got a great attitude. He seems quite vocal which is great because it’s unusual for a young guy like that to be as vocal as he is.

"But he seems to have all the skills as well. So these are very exciting times and to have this wealth of talent, particularly in the back row, is fantastic for us."

Gifted Leinster back Luke Fitzgerald, 19, completes the trio of debutants for the Islands showdown while Ulster fly-half Paddy Wallace will be making his first start.

O’Driscoll has told the newcomers that Saturday afternoon will flash by, after recalling his own debut against Australia in 1999.

"I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’ve have to play against Daniel Herbert and Tim Horan’. It was a strange feeling," he said.

"I was capped with two other guys – Tom Tierney and Matt Mostyn. There was a massive amount of excitement but it all passes you by so quickly and is difficult to remember.

"I wasn’t feeling nervous at all and then ran out on to the pitch and when Australia came out the fireworks went off – that’s when the nerves really kicked in.

"But it’s a very exciting time in any player’s life. The three guys are all young so there’s plenty more caps to come, but this one is definitely one to savour."

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