Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray were uncharacteristically poor and alternative out-half pairings should be considered, according to Alan Quinlan.
The former Ireland and Munster player was on Monday’s OTB AM and was commenting on the disheartening defeat to England in Twickenham.
Sexton, normally one of Ireland’s best performers, had his worst game in recent memory which led the former flanker to question what had happened.
“He just didn’t look right in himself. I think England really did unsettle him. They put massive pressure on him and Conor Murray.
“But aside from pressure and England being in their faces, they both made uncharacteristic errors.
“Poor kicks, poor decision making and poor execution from two players with, I think, 170 caps between them,” Quinlan said.
While the Tipperary native wasn’t calling for Andy Farrell to drop his captain for either of Ireland’s two remaining Six Nations matches, he did make an argument for Murray to lose his starting place.
“I think Cooney deserves a shot to start against Italy. I think it’s hard coming off the bench.
“But it’s always easier for players to come off the bench when the game is gone because things are going to change a little bit.
“In fairness, some of the guys that came off the bench looked better than obviously the players who played in the previous 60 minutes. But that’s part and parcel of the game being gone.
“But I think they deserve the opportunity to start a game. John Cooney does deserve an opportunity,” Quinlan said.
Ireland’s chances of winning the Six Nations title now look extremely slim as they trail France by four points at the top of the table.
They will, however, be thankful for a relatively easy game against Italy in two weeks' time (assuming the game goes ahead) before travelling to Paris to take on Les Bleus at the Stade de France.