O'Driscoll still able and just as capable
SIX NATIONS: IRELAND v ENGLANDApart from being pretty useful most of the time, Brian O'Driscoll is something of a good luck charm for Irish rugby. And reasons to be cheerful when he is available, or fearful when he is not, are particularly valid when confronted by the auld enemy.
Since the coronation of England's golden generation as Grand Slam champions in the old Lansdowne Road in 2003, when winning that last-Saturday winner-takes-all shoot-out 42-6 as a precursor to winning the World Cup later that year, Ireland and England have met 10 times.
England have won three, and maybe O'Driscoll just picks them well too, but not only did he miss those Twickenham defeats of 2010 and last year through injury, as well as the World Cup warm-up defeat at the Aviva, he has played in all of Ireland's last seven wins over England in the Six Nations.
Not that he would be inclined to take credit for that remarkable sequence, nor indeed that he especially raises his game against England, having also been a part of three "serious beatings" which sandwiched the 2001 win.
"I would say I had a pretty poor game in 2004 in Twickenham when we won, when Darce had a stormer. And there's one or two other games when I would say I wasn't poor, but solid. But it's not about personal satisfaction or personal performances. It's an added bonus if you play well and you win, but trust me I was just as happy in 2004 when we won and I didn't play well."
Then he paused, and smiled broadly. "Well, maybe that's a lie."
That there is an additional edge to the impending visit of an English team is hardly unique to rugby or Ireland, and O'Driscoll attributed this in part to the way non-rugby diehards would be more inclined to tune into an Anglo-Irish encounter.
One of the best sides
"Maybe it's ingrained in our psyche, I don't know. From a young age, it depends on your parents' attitude to it, as to whether they had more of an interest when Ireland played England in soccer, cricket or rugby. For me it's always been a big game, because of the close proximity of the two countries, because of the history but largely because of the quality of England and how you want to test yourself against the best sides. And invariably they're one of the best sides in the world. Personally, that's why I look forward to playing against England."
Plenty of quality players, as well as mates, have been and gone since the 2004 win at Twickenham heralded an unexpected era of Irish supremacy in the fixture, punctuated by some great days such as the Croke Park mauling defined by Shane Horgan's try off Ronan O'Gara's cross kick. And Horgan stretching every sinew in equally momentous style for the 2006 Triple Crown; a woozy O'Driscoll burrowing over for his try en route to the 2009 Slam and even the de-railing of the chariot's quest for a Slam two years ago.
"It's a very different team," he admitted, before making a revealing comment in light of him highlighting a lack of clarity in communicating the game plan on the summer tour to New Zealand. "I'd like to think we're in a better place from a detail point of view, and an understanding point of view, and an attack game point of view."