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O'Driscoll desperate to maintain fitness

Brian O'Driscoll hopes his battered body does not betray him as he embarks on a potentially career-defining six months that began in virtuoso fashion with Ireland's 30-22 victory over Wales.

O'Driscoll opened the RBS 6 Nations with a man-of-the-match performance headlined by the genius that created the opening try for Simon Zebo, but also notable for his own touch down and a frenzied shift in defence.

"The big thing is trying to be fit and getting as close to 100% fit as you possibly can when you take to the pitch," said O'Driscoll. "I felt good against Wales, my ankles both felt good, as did all the other bumps and bruises. If you can start games that way you have every chance of putting in a half decent performance."

He added: "Who doesn't like man of the match? They are few and far between these days, but when they're there you enjoy them."

Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards described O'Driscoll as "the difference between the two teams" while Ireland coach Declan Kidney declared "the bottom line is you would love to have the guy around forever".

But having witnessed a pulsating championship opener in Cardiff that consisted of an almost-uninterrupted second half of defensive bravery from the Irish, Kidney sounded a note of caution over the inevitable physical toll.

"If you look at the performance he put in, that's not easy on the body," Kidney said. "Huge credit to him, given the amount of game time he has had, to come out and give such an international-class performance like he did."

Kidney's decision to relieve O'Driscoll of the Ireland captaincy - a post he has held with distinction since 2004 - and award it to Jamie Heaslip was widely debated before the Six Nations.

It could yet prove a masterstroke, inspiring a reaction from a player able to concentrate on his own game, even if the Leinster centre insists his role remains the same.

"The captaincy doesn't make any difference, I still see myself as a leader in the team and helping Jamie out where I can," he said. "You don't play any differently if you're captain, you always try to lead by the way you play."


From Belfast Telegraph