Six Nations: Paris heroics saw O'Driscoll and rising stars come of age
Brian O’Driscoll insists that it was only when he returned to Dublin after scoring his hat-trick of tries against France in Paris in 2000 that he became aware of the significance of what he had done.
“I didn’t really know how big a deal that was until I got back home,” he said.
While he admits now that it was a hugely important day, he hastens to add that it changed things for Irish rugby as a whole rather than just for him as an individual.
Four Triple Crowns in six years, culminating in last season’s Six Nations clean sweep, bear him out.
The captain stresses the depth of the foundations on which that success has been built, his point being that it has been no one-man show.
It’s a wholly valid case for as O’Driscoll highlights he wasn’t the only new kid on the block that memorable March afternoon. There were others who, like him, have gone on to become key pillars in the towering edifice which is present-day Irish rugby.
And he spelt out that he was but one of a quintet of newcomers, all of whom have gone on to play major roles in the game’s development in Ireland.
“I think the game before that – against Scotland — five guys got caps. John Hayes is on his 99th cap, tomorrow Rog (Ronan O’Gara) is on his 95th, Shane Horgan is on 90-odd, Strings (Peter Stringer) is on 90-odd.
“These are guys who have been hugely instrumental in any success Ireland have had over the last 10 years. So if that win did anything positive, it changed the mentality of us as a rugby team and a rugby nation.
“When you look at the new guys who came in in that Six Nations I think that the team and the focus and mentality changed, hopefully for ever more.”
He added: “It was far from just one game,” — making the point that the 2000 Stade de France triumph had been a step — albeit a very important one — on what has become a journey.
“It was a catalyst. I think it would be silly to say that it wasn’t. We hadn’t won in 30 years over here and it gave us the belief that we could win if we played well.”
Assessing the fact that the Scottish backs had found gaps but failed exploit them at Murrayfield, O’Driscoll observed: “I think the French scramble defence is obviously very good, so credit where credit’s due. But we made a few breaks ourselves (against Italy) and didn’t finish those so we have to be a little more clinical.
“That has been an element of our focus this week.”