Brian O’Driscoll says veteran Ireland playmaker Johnny Sexton is an “inferior athlete” to Marcus Smith, but the former skipper believes his countryman has the IQ to outsmart the English upstart in a face-off.
O’Driscoll was setting the stage for Saturday’s Six Nations clash between England and Ireland, in what is expected to be a battle of the flyhalves.
Speaking to OTB Sports ahead of this weekend’s meeting at Twickenham, the Ireland great said: “Both of them understand space, they really do. But Johnny’s understanding is just pure experience.
“Johnny’s now really using his intellect to [get by]. He’s an inferior athlete to Marcus Smith. But still, very capable. If you offer him a gap, he’ll still go through.”
He added: “It’s Sexton’s passing game and his vision, and his ability to attract defenders and then pick the right option, is the real differentiator. That’s why he is still our number one.”
O’Driscoll, though, has been impressed by the 23-year-old Smith’s rapid rise to the top echelons of international rugby.
“He has this incredible athletic prowess that gets him out of trouble that wouldn’t allow other players to survive,” the ex-British & Irish Lions talisman said. “And he backs himself so much. If in doubt he will back himself.”
“Johnny’s understanding is from pure experience, but Marcus just gets it.”
Brian O’Driscoll compares Johnny Sexton & Marcus Smith’s knowledge of spacing.
Who gets your vote – Sexton or Smith?
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 8, 2022