If this is to be O’Driscoll’s swansong, we simply must win
Italians to pose a major test for Kidney’s men
Once in Italian territory, hold possession. Keep the ball. Let Italy give away the penalties. Sap their energy, silence the crowd and Italian belief with Irish points.
Be patient. To lose patience is to lose the battle. On wet days if you have position, gain possession and are patient, the points will follow.
If the sun shines, Ireland are a much better bet. The impact of Jonny Sexton’s withdrawal cannot be overstated. Sexton is the best on-field general in Europe.
Yet again Paddy Jackson has been tossed in the deep end. I have been hugely impressed with Paddy’s resilience. A Heineken Cup Final and the Six Nations are not the environment to learn your trade. Talent needs management, wisdom and guidance to mature. There seems precious little support for this young, highly talented outhalf.
Despite this, as we say in Australia, the kid has played strong and done good. Paddy can hold his head high.
A loss would be terminal for the staff and catastrophic for team morale. Sadly, there appears little doubt that Brian O’Driscoll will not play for Ireland again.
It is also unthinkable that the greatest player Ireland has ever seen will wear his beloved green jersey for the last time in a losing performance.
It is a shame Brian will not play one more game on home soil, so all of Ireland can be given the chance to say, thank you. He has done more for Irish rugby than any other individual. His loyalty and service have been extraordinary. The loss to Irish rugby will be immeasurable.
Yet I do not blame him for stopping. He has carried all of us for a long. At times, I know this responsibility has been a heavy burden. Yet, being who he is, not only did he carry us, he inspired us to believe we could all be better. Because of Brian, we believed to be Irish, was to be a winner.
He is not only the greatest player I have seen or coached, he is a gentleman, a wonderful man and, more important than anything to do with rugby, to me, he is a treasured friend. Happiness is all I hope for him.
I have said it before, but it is worth saying again. We will never see the likes of Brian again. If this is his last game in green, then Ireland simply must win.