Brian O’Driscoll is within touching distance of yet another remarkable milestone – the Championship try-scoring record that has stood since 1933.
Ireland’s talismanic captain and record try scorer took his RBS 6 Nations tournament tally to 23 tries with Ireland’s only try in their 13-11 win over Italy in Rome last Saturday.
And while Brian O’Driscoll’s Ireland host defending champions France at the Aviva Stadium this coming Sunday, by sheer coincidence Scotland take on Wales at Murrayfield on the same weekend, 87 years after Ian Smith made a try-scoring Scottish debut in the same fixture and went on to score a Championship record 24 tries.
The ‘Flying Scotsman’ amassed his two dozen tries in just 31 appearances on the wing at the phenomenal strike rate of three tries every four Tests.
Smith’s mark has withstood the test of time along with all challenges for the last 78 years, but O’Driscoll is now closing in and is just one try away from matching Smith’s mark, the talented centre scoring his 23 tries in 51 Championship matches.
Smith, a key member of the great Oxford University three-quarter line, along with Phil Macpherson, George Aitken and Johnny Wallace, was the original ‘Flying Scot’ and a deadly finisher when given a merest sniff of the try-line.
In the 1925 tournament, he scored a Championship record-equalling eight tries in just two matches – he crossed four times against France and then repeated the feat a fortnight later against Wales.
Born in Melbourne in 1903, and brought up in New Zealand, Smith was educated at Winchester and qualified to play for Scotland through family connections in the Borders.
He was a key player in the ‘Immortals’ – the first Scottish side to win the Grand Slam in 1925 – and although in the deciding match with England Smith was marked out of the contest, he went on to gain his revenge by scoring nine tries in eight subsequent appearances against England.
Smith was selected for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1924, the first tour after the end of the First World War, and in 1933 he captained the Scotland side that won the Triple Crown in Dublin, eventually defeating the Irish 8-6 after the first match was cancelled amid ferocious blizzards. It was Smith’s last international and a fitting end to an exceptional rugby career.
But now O’Driscoll is the player in the spotlight and the 32-year-old midfield maestro’s glittering career simply goes on and on.
Now that 78-year-old Championship record is under real threat from the former British & Irish Lions captain who opened his Championship try-scoring account against Scotland 11 years ago and has scored more of his tournament tries against France than against any of the other competing nations.
IAN SMITH’S CHAMPIONSHIP TRIES:
Five Nations Record – Played 31, Won 20, Lost 11, Points 72 (24 tries)
1924: v WALES, Inverleith, 3 tries
1925: v FRANCE, Inverleith, 4 tries; v WALES, St. Helen’s, Swansea, 4 tries
1926: v ENGLAND, Twickenham, 2 tries
1927: v FRANCE, Murrayfield, 2 tries; v ENGLAND, Murrayfield, 2 tries
1929: v IRELAND, Lansdowne Road, 1 try; v ENGLAND, Murrayfield, 2 tries
1931: v ENGLAND, Murrayfield, 2 tries
1932: v ENGLAND, Twickenham, 1 try
1933: v WALES, St. Helen’s, Swansea, 1 try
By Country – v England (9 tries), v Wales (8 tries), v France (6 tries), v Ireland (1 try)
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL’S CHAMPIONSHIP TRIES:
Six Nations Record – Played 51, Won 38, Lost 13, Points 118 (23 tries, 1 drop goal)
2000: v SCOTLAND, Lansdowne Road, 1 try; v ITALY, Lansdowne Road, 1 try; v FRANCE, Stade de France, 3 tries
2001: v FRANCE, Lansdowne Road, 1 try; v WALES, Millennium Stadium, 1 try
2002: v SCOTLAND, Lansdowne Road, 3 tries
2003: v ITALY, Stadio Flaminio, 1 try
2004: v WALES, Lansdowne Road, 2 tries; v ITALY, Lansdowne Road, 1 try
2005: v ENGLAND, Lansdowne Road, 1 try; v FRANCE Lansdowne Road, 1 try
2007: v WALES, Millennium Stadium, 1 try
2009: v FRANCE, Croke Park, 1 try; v ITALY, Stadio Flaminio, 1 try; v ENGLAND, Croke Park, 1 try; v WALES, Millennium Stadium, 1 try
2010: v SCOTLAND, Croke Park, 1 try
2011: v ITALY, Stadio Flaminio, 1 try
By Country – v France (6 tries), v Italy (5 tries), v Scotland (5 tries), v Wales (5 tries), v England (2 tries)
– Official match data supplied by RBS 6 Nations