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O’Driscoll’s Ireland ton simply an almighty achievement

By Niall Crozier

BRIAN O’Driscoll has had more than a decade in which to become accustomed to being Irish rugby football’s golden boy.

He has won European rugby’s biggest prizes at club and international level, with his straining-beneath-the-weight personal trophy cabinet including Heineken Cup and Grand Slam mementoes.

He has captained his country on 62 occasions and led the 2005 British and Irish Lions.

In addition to last season’s Grand Slam and Heineken Cup successes, he won the IRB’s World Player of the Year award.

When it comes to ‘Been there, done that’ T-shirts, he has a wardrobe full of them.

Some of the mere mortals who pay to watch Ireland’s oval ball superstar do so dressed in T-shirts extolling him. ‘BOD Almighty.’ One was on view at Twickenham on February 27, his face emblazoned upon the green cotton fabric for the benefit of anyone unable to decipher who BOD might be. Those requiring such help must lead very sheltered lives, for O’Driscoll is the best-known exponent of the game on the planet.

Accolades are nothing new, O’Driscoll having earned the status of an iconic, talismanic leader by virtue of past deeds and heroics too numerous to list.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” they reckon and this man has come to Ireland’s rescue in more than one hour of crisis requiring something special. More often than not BOD has been the one to provide a moment of genius.

To that add a remarkable work ethic and rare physical courage. If you like your grace offset by grit, look no further.

Paul O’Connell, who knows more than most about going in where it hurts, said: “He takes unbelievable punishment for a guy who would be considered to be a flamboyant player. He takes unbelievable punishment in the tackle and the ruck.

“For a team it’s inspiring and it’s a great way to lead.

“He has set a standard for players across the board. He’s a complete player and that’s what everybody aspires to be — the complete player, both in defence and attack.”

Praise indeed from last summer’s Lions’ skipper and once again this term’s Munster captain.

If O’Driscoll feels burdened by the weight of expectation resting upon him, he does not allow it to show. That is another of his many strengths. Calm in a crisis.

But even by the levels of fuss and acclamation with which he is familiar, this is an exceptional week for an exceptional player. For on Saturday, two weeks after John Hayes became its founder, O’Driscoll will join the Munster tighthead as the second member of Irish Rugby’s 100 Cap Club.

At yesterday’s announcement of the team to face Wales, coach Declan Kidney called his captain “the consummate professional.”

O’Driscoll himself said: “When you get your first cap it’s such a huge honour. I was such a young age; I was 20.

“At the start it’s about winning as many caps as possible and then your mindset changes and you want to win as many times as possible in getting those caps. It’s about winning individual games.

“Then you get selfish and you want to start winning trophies, but you don’t really look at things and think, ‘Oh one day to attain 100.’ You just keep playing.”

He admitted that in recent years there have been moments when he has thought, “the next game in a green jersey could be my last. I don’t think you can go too far wrong if you have that attitude.”

At that he smiled and reassured the assembled media hordes; “I’m not going to stop just yet. I intend to keep playing so long as the body and mind — and the coach — still say I can go on.”

When it was put to him that the decision really was not his, again he smiled broadly and looked at Kidney, who was sitting alongside, before replying: “No, it isn’t.”

Explaining his on-going love of the game he continued: “Obviously last year was fantastic and

it makes things a lot easier when you win a couple of trophies that you’ve been trying to win for a lot of years.

“As I say, you do get selfish, but I do know that there is an end line somewhere in sight, so it’s about trying to attain as much as possible in that remaining time.”

For now, though, his appetite for rugby remains.

“I love going training every day and I love playing, though obviously there are parts of the job that I wouldn’t love. But getting on the pitch and getting to exercise every day for a living is pretty good,” he said.

“There’s always aspects of your game that you can improve.

“When you look at the greatest players of all time they have always said that there is always room for improvement.”

Citing Gareth Edwards and Dan Carter as greats O’Driscoll added: “These guys were always working on certain aspects of their game.

“The second I think that I have it cracked it will be time to hang my boots up because you’ve lost the plot.”

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