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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 3 September, 2014

14 years on, O’Driscoll still strikes fear into Australian hearts

The outside centre made his debut against the Wallabies in 1999.

Brian O'Driscoll was in good form at a session for print media at Carton House today.
Brian O'Driscoll was in good form at a session for print media at Carton House today.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

PAUL O’CONNELL SAYS Dr. Brian O’Driscoll is no different today than the regular Brian O’Driscoll before his DCU doctorate was conferred.

“No-one contradicts Brian,” O’Connell remarked. “What he says, goes.”

Ireland’s backline and forwards talismen will start for their country, against Australia this Saturday, for the first time in more than two years. A lot has changed, admits O’Connell, since the duo lined out against Wales in the quarter final of the World Cup.

One of the changes is a huge positive — both men were in the Lions squad that defeated Australia 2-1 in this summer’s gripping Test Series. O’Driscoll [dropped] and O’Connell [injured] watched the decisive third Test victory from the sidelines and will be keen to land their own blows on an Australian team that have often outfoxed them.

Australia were the opposition for O’Driscoll on his Ireland debut in 1999. Playing at the Ballmore Stadium in Brisbane, Ireland were torn to shreds in a 46-10 defeat. Cap number two was in Perth a week later and although the tourists, and their young outside centre, played better, Australia triumphed 32-26. The two sides met at the World Cup later that same year with Ireland on the losing side again.

O’Driscoll’s next outing against the Aussies would see him earn the nickname of ‘Waltzing O’Driscoll’ Down Under. He ran in a superb try after receiving the ball some 60 metres out and beating four green and gold shirts.

YouTube credit: ARU TV

The Lions won the Test but lost the series. Revenge came the following year and O’Driscoll, this time, was wearing green. Ronan O’Gara kicked six penalties as Ireland toppled the reigning world champions 18-6 at Lansdowne Road.

Nine games have passed since that memorable day in Dublin and O’Driscoll’s record [with Lions and Ireland] reads: three wins, five defeats one draw. The country’s record tryscorer has a winning record of 27% in 11 games against Australia but is held in high regard by their supporters and players.

Speaking a month after Ireland had beaten Australia 15-6 at Eden Park in the World Cup, Wallaby back Adam Ashley-Cooper’s tone regarding O’Driscoll was reverential. He said, “I said before we played them that world class players turn up at world class events and that was definitely the case with him. Ireland deserved their win against us, no doubt.”

Ashley-Cooper will face off against O’Driscoll, who retires at the end of the season, for the last time on Saturday. Australia are coming off the back of a morale-boosting win over Italy and their coach, Ewen McKenzie, wants to finish his first [half] season on a winning streak.

“It’s going to be really tough,” O’Connell conceded, “but I’m delighted to be in the team, especially because of that, and it’s great to have Brian in the team as well.”

Two years in the making but the confidence of Irish fans will be steeled on Saturday when they look at the match programme and see the famous surnames in the starting line-up.

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