Even though he hasn’t played any rugby since injury forced him to retire in the Heineken Cup game against Sale captain Brian O’Driscoll is set to lead Ireland against France
Even though he hasn’t played any rugby since injury to his right hamstring forced him to retire in the Heineken Cup game against Sale Sharks in January, Brian O’Driscoll is set to lead Ireland against France in the Royal Bank of Scotland Six Nations opener in a fortnight’s time. The player, so important to Irish ambitions in the championship, has been making progress according to coach Eddie O’Suillivan, but at this stage is still rated only 50/50 to be fit in time. “Brian has been making steady progress and by Tuesday next we will have a better idea. However, he is captain of the side and very important to us and we will give him as long as we can to prove his fitness.”
The player himserlf is optimistic of being fit and he is looking forward to the challenge of leading the side.
“It is a daunting task to follow someone like Keith,” said O’Driscoll, who
burst onto the scene in the 2000 tournament with a hat-trick of tries against France in Paris as Ireland ended a 28-year winless drought in the City of Light, appropriately on St Patrick’s Day.
“It is something relatively new to me but obviously not the first time that I have assumed the captaincy as I had an eight to nine game run through the
2002 autumn tests and the Six Nations.
“I hope I can take the responsibility on and enjoy it,”
Coach Eddie O’Sullivan accepts that his star centre is ‘relatively inexperienced’.
“He is a rookie at captaincy really,” O’Sullivan said. “Lawrence Dallaglio replacing Martin Johnson for England is not the same thing as he has already been there and done that, whereas Brian has captained
Ireland but not sufficiently to say he is experienced in it. That said however, I’m confident he will do a good job for us.”
O’Sullivan reduced his squad from 34 to 22 yesterday (Thursday), with those players considered surplus to requirement returning to their provinces to prepare for this weekend’s Celtic League matches.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the exclusion of Munster flanker David Wallace who has been in outstanding form in recent Heineken Cup games, O’Sullivan citing an ‘abundance of riches’ reason for the decision.
One player who has benefitted positively from current good form is Leinster Lion Gordon D’Arcy. (pictured). He had been playing extremely well in Celtic League and early Heineken Cup games on the wing but the injury to O’Driscoll saw him move to 13 where he was outstanding in the absence of the Ireland skipper. This gives O’Sullivan further options now with D’Arcy able to cover three backline positions.
Forwards: Shane Byrne (Leinster – Blackrock College), Reggie Corrigan
(Leinster – Greystones), Victor Costello (Leinster – St. Mary’s
Simon Easterby (Llanelli), Anthony Foley (Munster – Shannon), Keith
(Leinster – St. Mary’s College), John Hayes (Munster – Shannon),
Horan (Munster – Shannon), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster – Cork
Constitution), Paul O’Connell (Munster – Young Munster), Malcolm
(Leinster – St. Mary’s College), Frank Sheahan (Munster – Cork
Backs: Gordon Darcy (Leinster – Lansdowne), Girvan Dempsey (Leinster –
Terenure College), Guy Easterby (Rotherham), Shane Horgan (Leinster –
Lansdowne), Tyrone Howe (Ulster – Dungannon), David Humphreys (Ulster
Dungannon), Kevin Maggs (Bath), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster – Blackrock
College) Captain, Ronan O’Gara (Munster – Cork Constitution), Peter
(Munster – Shannon).