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Brian O'Driscoll's exit shows winning still means everything

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With Niall Crozier

American golfer Nancy Lopez, once said: "Great champions have an enormous sense of pride. The people who excel are those who are driven to show the world just how good they are."

Saturday saw excellent examples of that manifest in the Leinster and Toulon players who landed rugby's PRO12 and Top14 titles respectively. Their commitment at the end of a long, gruelling season underlined a drive to go on delivering right to the end.

Three men – now retired – stood out in particular; Leinster aces Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen plus Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson.

Even after 17 years at the top, Toulon captain Wilkinson was as hungry as ever in what was his final game before hanging up his boots. Four penalties and a drop-goal at Stade de France saw him contribute 15 of his side's points in their 18-10 victory over Castres, the defending champions.

In Dublin, Leinster club captain Cullen was introduced as a final-quarter replacement. That didn't matter; he showed the vigour of a man making his debut rather than playing his final match.

Alas, a calf injury meant O'Driscoll's exited early from what was also his last game, but his reaction at full-time said it all. Winning was still everything.

Significantly, when it came to the hand-over of the PRO12 trophy, match-night captain Jamie Heaslip left it to O'Driscoll and Cullen to receive the prize. Worryingly for Ulster, Heaslip's massive smile was that of a man who believed he will have plenty more opportunities.

Belfast Telegraph


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