If fit and selected, Brian O’Driscoll will lead Ireland out for the 49th time next Saturday when they take on Canada in the GUINNESS Series 2008 at Thomond Park Stadium. Having been asked to continue his captaincy role by new coach Declan Kidney, the 29-year-old was delighted to accept the offer.
Asked about the captaincy decision, O’Driscoll said: “It’s always been a huge honour for me (to be captain). With a new set-up coming in, it brings something new and Declan (Kidney) had to choose amongst a huge number of great leaders.
“Obviously I was delighted to be asked to remain on as captain for the November series and play it by ear after that.
“It’s something I’ve really enjoyed and to be able to do it 48 times has been fantastic. Hopefully I can lead Ireland to something special.”
O’Driscoll was to the forefront of Irish rugby’s so-called ‘golden generation’.
And with many of the players that secured three Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007 still involved and a smattering of young talents pushing through, the Leinster centre answered in the affirmative when pressed on whether this current squad is ‘one of the best Ireland squads’ he has led.
“Yeah, I think so. I think with this new era, everyone coming in in August (for the first squad sessions) was probably a bit unsure as to how things were going to be with the new coaching staff.
“Now that we’ve had a chance to settle in, I think there’s good excitement within the squad.
“From a back-line point of view, there’s huge competition as well as the forwards. (With the forwards), that’s always been there but maybe a little bit less so in the backs.
“The likes of Keith Earls is playing great stuff, Rob Kearney, Lukey (Luke Fitzgerald). Guys that can play in a number of different positions.
“So I don’t think anyone is properly safe, which is a great place to be at. You’ll really have to be at the top of your game to retain your 1 to 15 jersey.”
Ireland will kickstart the Kidney era against Canada next Saturday. Preparation time will be short and O’Driscoll agreed that, without a Test match since their June defeat to Australia, he and his team-mates might take their time to click at Thomond Park.
“Yeah, there’s going to be an element of (rustiness). We haven’t had a huge amount of time together. We can’t expect to click immediately from minute one in the first game.
“That’s about trying to build our game and grow into it. Experienced players know that you don’t try the hardest play in the first minute of your first Test match for three or four months.
“You try and build your game the first 20 minutes or half-an-hour and then try to get a little more expansive in the second half.
“That’s why we’ve got great players, great leaders in key positions – they have the experience and know-how to implement that.”
Enjoying the backing of the Thomond Park faithful will be a strange experience for O’Driscoll, given his Leinster allegiance.
But the Dubliner, who trained at the match venue on Friday, is relishing the prospect of playing for the first time at the redeveloped 26,500-capacity stadium – fitness permitting.
“It’s going to be great (playing at Thomond). I played there once or twice before in an Irish jersey, and obviously it’s very different to playing there in a blue jersey,” he mused.
“As a Leinster player, to have a Thomond crowd cheering for you is a little bit of a novelty. It’s turned into a fantastic stadium now.
“I think we always look forward to playing there, from a provincial point of view, because it’s one of the tougher games you play.
“It’ll be great to go down there and play in a really, hard, physical international match and have the vast majority of the crowd cheering for us.”