Six Nations: England floored by O’Driscoll’s silken touch
So Captain Fantastic extends the legend. Those who thought that Brian O’Driscoll might subsume quietly to another demoralising defeat faced their moment of reckoning at Lansdowne Road.
The star-studded performance offered by Ireland’s leader was an elegant testimony to his enduring brilliance.
And his humanity. Strip away for a moment, if you will, the try he scored that guaranteed Ireland’s supremacy. Forget the one he had disallowed in the first half and overlook, if you wish, his entry into the Championship record books as the highest individual try scorer ever, surpassing the 78 year-old record of Scottish wing Ian Smith.
So where does humanity fit into all this? I’ll tell you. This morning a 7-year-old slip of a lad from County Dublin will be the talk of his class. Likewise, a 10-year-old from County Kildare. Matthew O’Shea and Ben Culliton, the official mascots on Saturday, looked, if this was possible, even more nervous than England’s players on the grand stage. So what did Ireland’s captain do when he took them by the hand and led them out? Did he just do his official duty, get them on the field and then desert them? Did he think only of himself, his own preparations and his mates? Not a chance.
To see a man about to captain his country in an international match of huge importance talking earnestly to those youngsters, gently calming them and telling them where they had to go, what they had to do and how he would be alongside them, was fantastic. But what, the cynics might sneer, has all this got to do with O’Driscoll and his performance? The answer is, everything.
Throughout his long, outstanding career Brian O’Driscoll has mastered the art of precision in his execution, timing and behaviour.
Here was yet more evidence of that attention to detail, that dedication to any task, whatever its magnitude.
Whether it is greeting small youngsters, or his President or the opposition captain, O’Driscoll just gets it right. He is a credit to his team, his country and his game.
After all that, he plays. And gee, can he play.....
Some said a year or two back, when he was clearly struggling to re-discover that searing pace that he could think about switching to a flanker’s role.
If that seemed a fanciful idea to some, they should study the tape of his 46th minute try on Saturday. Here was the quintessential flanker, close to the play in support, ready to swoop for the ball when it went loose and then powering to the line for the score. O’Driscoll is the consummate player. Hugely intelligent, he reads a game like a book.
The subtlety of his play is a joy to behold, whether it be a little pop-up pass, a shrewdly timed run off the ball to support the man in possession or the defensive positioning which makes him invaluable to those around him.
Unquestionably, he represents the soul of this Irish team. With him in residence, a general confidence exudes among his colleagues. Without him, none can fill the vacuum.
England had no-one of his class and touch on the field. Set against O’Driscoll’s silken touch, they resembled lumbering, leaden footed warriors.
How appropriate that Brian O’Driscoll and his men cut them to pieces with such elegant swishes of the rapier.