JOE SCHMIDT HAS proven himself to be a man who can get his head around most things that occur in the vicinity of a rugby field.
However, after watching Brian O’Driscoll overcome a mild stomach bug in time to prove his fitness for what will be his 139th appearance at international level, the Kiwi found himself struggling to find words for the record-equalling feat.
“I didn’t play Test rugby, so I wouldn’t be the best to judge,” a wide-eyed Schmidt said at Carton House today.
“Where I grew up, in the black jersey, one Test would have been phenomenal – so if you manage to amass 130 of them, I’m not quite sure how you do it.”
When the first whistle goes at Twickenham on Saturday, O’Driscoll’s Ireland caps will be up to 131. And when eight Test starts over four Lions tours are factored in, it takes the centre level with legendary Wallaby scrum-half George Gregan on 139.
“Records are there to be broken,” the Australian told RTE in November, “and if it is broken by Brian O’Driscoll than it couldn’t go to a better rugby player, because he lives and breathes it every time he plays.”
Now approaching four full years coaching the former Ireland captain, Schmidt did soon find the words to succinctly sum up the 35-year-old with whom he hopes to share a fifth trophy with this weekend:
“You have to be incredibly resilient, incredibly talented, a phenomenal professional and there’s your summary – that’s Brian O’Driscoll.
“He’s a very, very tough character. And the person he is allows him to be the player he has been… and, hopefully, the player he will be on Saturday at four o’clock.”