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06th Apr 2022

Brian O’Driscoll picks five of the northern hemisphere’s best young players

Patrick McCarry

“He looks cool as a cucumber!”

We are just about done with digesting the 2022 Six Nations and, like a flash, the Champions Cup is back upon us. Brian O’Driscoll can’t wait for European club rivalries to resume.

The former Leinster and Ireland captain is headed to The Sportsground, on Friday, to be part of the BT Sport team covering his old club’s Last 16 clash with Connacht. He feels it could be a tight-run affair in Galway, but predicts Leinster will advance to the quarter finals by winning comfortably over two legs.

One thing that the Six Nations showed us all, is the number of confident young stars making their mark on the game. We asked Brian O’Driscoll to give us the name of five of the best young players in world rugby right now [aged 25 and under]. Admitting he needs a proper catch-up on the southern hemisphere’s best young guns, he offered us his picks for the northern hemisphere.

A player from England, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy was selected, with O’Driscoll adding that he likes the looks of Scotland’s 22-year-old flanker Rory Darge, but needs to see more of him before he pins his colours to the mast.


Finn Russell

Even though he had a quiet enough Six Nations, Ntamack is so good beside Antoine Dupont, who is obviously a phenomenal player.

There’s something really special about the time that Ntamack has on his hands – how he is able to pull the trigger, make good decisions and find himself in the right places. He looks cool as a cucumber! He really does. So unfazed by everything that goes on around him.

That break he made when he set up that incredible attack against New Zealand stands out. When he set off from behind his own in-goal area. That sort of stuff does not happen to every player – you have to have a particular temperament to deal with those stressful environments. I think he’s going to be a big one.

2. MARCUS SMITH (England)


Marcus Smith is the obvious choice. He looks great.


He’s a very good player. I think he’s going to be one, for Wales, for the next 8, 9, 10 years. In a disappointing Wales team, for the Six Nations, he showed well.


I haven’t seen much of him, but there are some players that just have magical, impactful moments… He had a great game [against Wales] aside from that one great moment [his break to set up the winning try]. He looks very exciting. He can create things and make things happen. God, Italy need that!

It’s brilliant to see someone with no limitations, playing with freedom to go and properly express themselves. And then to go and create something as fabulous as that was, and nearly take the shine off that France Grand Slam, the way he won them that first [Six Nations] game in seven years.

5. DAN SHEEHAN (Ireland)

Dan Sheehan

He shows so much potential. He’s going to put Rónan Kelleher under massive pressure, going forward.

Kelleher’s overall game maybe just sneaks it – his darts, his consistency of overall performance – but the explosive nature of Dan Sheehan makes him a phenomenal impact player.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens him over the next couple of seasons. He’s going to need more game-time. Can Leinster keep both him and Kelleher happy, or will other provinces be looking to poach him. But he’s definitely one that is going to have a very, very future.

BT Sport is the home of European Rugby Champions Cup. The 2021/22 season continues with a weekend full of games, including Leinster v Connacht live on BT Sport 1 at 7.15pm on Friday 8th April. Find out more information on how to watch at BT Sport