THIS EVENING’S GAME against Samoa marks the 51st time that Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy have lined up together in the centre for Ireland.
That means the pair will equal the record set by New Zealand’s Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu just last month when the All Blacks played South Africa in the Rugby Championship.
There have certainly been times in recent months when worries over whether or not O’Driscoll and D’Arcy could add to the 50 Test caps they have won as a partnership were very real, but head coach Joe Schmidt has put his faith in the tried and trusted combination for the clash with Samoa at 5.45pm.
The Leinster pair last played together in green in February against England in the Six Nations, a match Ireland lost 12-6. It now seems probable that the centres will go on to set a new record this autumn if they can both avoid injury, particularly as Smith is not part of New Zealand’s tour.
It would be yet another remarkable achievement for the iconic duo, who have powered Ireland to so many memorable victories over the years. Whatever about those memories, O’Driscoll and D’Arcy need to help Ireland to more wins this month, starting against Samoa this evening.
Opposite them will be a Samoan midfield made up of Johnny Leota and George Pisi, who will have intentions of doing damage with ball in hand. Leota is a powerful, direct inside centre who can also distribute, while Pisi’s excellent footwork combines well with strength and size to make him a real handful to mark.
Pisi often uses his quick feet to shift defenders, dragging them across the pitch before hitting one of his outside backs on a switch or a trail runner with an inside pass. O’Driscoll will have to work hard to marshal Pisi’s darting runs, while D’Arcy will need to be constantly alert in drifting across to cover that space inside the 34-year-old.
It’s another intriguing challenge for a pair of legendary centres. Ireland have been blessed to be able to call upon them over the last 14 years. Here’s to hoping the record-equalling and soon-to-be record-breaking duo can provide a little more magic in Dublin this evening.
What’s your best memory of BOD and D’Arcy together? Are they the best centre partnership of all-time?
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