Should Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll retire from international rugby?

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Ireland legend Brian O'Driscoll has faced some tough questions over his international future in the media in recent days following his country's loss to Australia on Saturday.

The 34-year-old centre, who was facing the Wallabies for the first time since the second Test of the British and Irish Lions' triumphant tour, struggled to match his normally high standards in what was a rusty performance.

In particular, RTE pundit George Hook was particularly vocal in his view that O'Driscoll should call time on a decorated Ireland career to preserve his legendary status.

Hook wrote in the Irish Independent: "Who advised O'Driscoll to play for one more season? It will be the biggest tragedy in Irish rugby history if he is remembered for the manner of his leaving rather than the days of his pomp."

Naturally, as the greatest-ever rugby to come from Irish shores, there is a bond between the Irish supporters and Leinster No13 which transcends his performances on the pitch. He will always remain an icon for both his achievements and character.

Perhaps comparable to England's David Beckham (who earned his last cap aged 34), O'Driscoll will struggle to really taint his gleaming record, having helped Ireland win a four Triple Crowns and the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009.

But, what we really need to assess is whether there are better candidate to fill O'Driscoll's No13 role, if, as Hook suggested, the Leinster man is now past his sell-by-date on the international scene.

At a glance, it appears there isn't.

Ulster's Darren Cave has been called up to the Irish set-up as cover for the former Ireland captain, but the 26-year-old has limited experience at international level since winning his first cap in May 2009.

Another touted candidate is Connacht's Robbie Henshaw. But the 20-year-old, who made his first senior appearance against USA in the summer, has limited Rabo DirectPro12 and European experience.

Of course, Joe Schmidt could use the likes of Tommy Bowe or Ian Marshall at outside centre - but perhaps the Ireland head coach wants to take his time on earmarking a permanent successor for the No13 shirt throughout O'Driscoll's final season and ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

After all, stability is key for the new head coach as he tries to right the Irish ship.

Hook has been accused over reacting - and it's worth bearing in mind O'Driscoll has yet to hit the ground running following a recent return to action after demanding summer travelling with the Lions.

It's also worth noting Paul O'Connell's excellent form in 2013 after a spell sidelines.

In short, this could be a temporary blip.

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