O'Driscoll to make World Cup kick-off
Published 06/09/2007 | 07:48
Ireland touched down in Bordeaux last night and received a massive World Cup boost with the news that captain Brian O'Driscoll will be fit for their opening clash against Namibia on Sunday.
The Ireland squad and coaching team arrived in the French city bathed in glorious sunshine and were met by an official welcome party of Bordeaux dignitaries and around 50 local schoolchildren, waving Irish tricolours and Ulster flags in respect of the team's all-island status.
And O'Driscoll, who was expected to miss Sunday's game having suffered a fractured sinus in the bad-tempered warm-up match against Bayonne last month, crowned the party atmosphere by declaring himself fit for battle.
As one French rugby supporter reached out to put a maroon beret on O'Driscoll's head, the Ireland captain said: "I am feeling good and I am fit for selection, depending on what this man (Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan) beside me decides what to do, what side he wants to pick.
"I am certainly hoping to play if he puts down that number 13 shirt on Sunday.
"It is not until you touchdown in the country where the tournament is taking place do you properly get the feeling of being involved in a World Cup.
"All the build-up is for this moment and now we are going to enjoy the next few weeks.
"To see locals coming around to welcome you to their city does get the goose bumps going and now you can properly feel the World Cup is here and now we start switching on."
That O'Driscoll is fit at least a week ahead of schedule delighted Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, clearing itching for the real action to begin after the months of painstaking preparation.
"It is great to be here at last," said O'Sullivan.
"All the waiting is over and it is time to get on with the show now. We have had a fantastic welcome here, it has been great and the weather is brilliant as well.
"We are here in optimistic spirits. We have everything to play for. We have worked very hard for this now and we don't want to leave anything behind us."
Jonny Wilkinson is confident of recovering from his latest injury setback in time to face South Africa next Friday.
The fly-half will miss England's World Cup opener against USA on Saturday after twisting his ankle in training this week.
But the 28-year-old insists the problem is nowhere near as serious as the other injuries that have blighted his career since he dropped the winning goal in the 2003 final in Sydney.
"We have to wait to let it settle and recover, but it is not a long-term injury and while I am loath to be held to any sort of a date, I am looking at the South Africa match a week tomorrow as a game that I am hoping and still determined to play in," Wilkinson said .
"In order for me to play against South Africa, at some point in the middle of next week I need to be working and running on the ankle properly.
"I am hugely positive mentally about that, especially given how quickly the ankle has settled down."