Jamie Heaslip says Caelan Doris is the best No.8 in the country right now – and predicts the Leinster kid will be around “for a long time”.
Doris was named earlier today in Andy Farrell's first Ireland XV as head coach, a well-deserved reward for an impressive start to the season for his province.
The 21-year-old has made 10 starts in the No. 8 shirt – just one fewer than his entire season tally last year, with four of those coming when Ireland were struggling in Japan.
The Mayo man has been a standout – alongside fellow back-rower Max Deegan – but he's the one who's earned the call, and a start on his debut.
“In terms of No. 8s, I think Caelan is definitely the best eight in the country right now,” said Heaslip, “my other opinion is that he is probably one of the best back-rows in the country right now.
“There are some intangible stuff he brings like his mindset his attitude and 'grunt'. He has that in spades. He just keeps turning up.
“And then I think he can play both sides of the ball really well. There are a lot of players who can play one side of the ball well and do one thing on that side of the ball well, but forwards need a full spectrum of skills.
“Yes, you can be a specialist. Depending on the rest of the back-row, yes you might need to have a certain skill-set (at eight) but gone are the days that you just did one thing well.
“I think teams and players just copped that on too quickly. When you are seeing this crop of players coming through, most of them can do everything and that's how it has to go.”
Heaslip won 99 of his 100 caps for Ireland and the Lions in the No. 8 shirt, and while it would be a huge compliment to Doris – he does not want to hear more comparisons between the pair.
“As a player, I never particularly liked being referenced to anyone else and I don't want to do that to Caelan. Caelan is Caelan,” he said.
“I think he is a cracking player. He has got a lot of talent and he has the potential to be there for a long time. It's a great headache to have.
“You have got Caelan and Max who can play across the back-row as well. He has played a lot of rugby at eight. You have got CJ [Stander] who can play six and eight.
“And we are not even talking about Jack Conan, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy, these type of players.”