Giants of the game – where are they now?
Brian O’Driscoll won the first of his Ireland caps against Australia in 1999. What became of the players he started alongside that day?
15 Conor O’Shea
He is the director of rugby at Harlequins, a position he accepted in 2010 after what has become known as “Bloodgate” and the sacking and suspension of Dean Richards following on from an incident during a Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in 2009. He has won three trophies in his short time there. O’Shea is a respected analyst on RTÉ television, known for his incisive, articulate views. Back in 1999 he was a senior figure in the Ireland team (35 caps). In less than 12 months his career was over, cruelly finished in 2000 by a serious ankle injury. He had made 127 appearances for London Irish – he was previously with Lansdowne and Leinster – becoming the director of rugby on his retirement. The club won the Powergen Cup in 2002. He left Irish in 2005 to become the English RFU’s director of regional academies, moving to the English Institute of Sport (2008) before joining his current employer.
14 Justin Bishop
Born in Crawley, West Sussex, he made 279 appearances for London Irish, scoring 58 tries and then graduating, on hanging up his boots, to assistant manager of the academy and then defence coach (2011-2012). He had a spell with the Doncaster Knights for two years in between those appointments. Bishop played international age-grade rugby for both England and Ireland and Clive Woodward tried to persuade him to wear the red rose at Under-21 level. The talented wing though chose Ireland for whom his grandfather Tomas Dunn had been capped against the All Blacks in 1935.The young Bishop was a very accomplished squash player and was nationally ranked in England as a 19-year-old. When London Irish won the Powergen final (2002), he scored two tries in the final. He made 25 appearances for Ireland, crossing for eight tries. He scored on his debut against the Springboks. As he recalled: “I didn’t touch the ball for the first 18 and a half minutes, then the first time it came my way I scored.” He is currently the business development manager for the IWS group in West Sussex.
3 Brian O’Driscoll
Warren Gatland, the then Irish coach, gave him his debut that day, one that allowed O’Driscoll to play against his rugby idol, Australian centre Tim Horan. A future Leinster team-mate, Nathan Spooner, made his debut for the Wallabies at outhalf. At this point, O’Driscoll had yet to play for his province.
O’Driscoll’s career, which finishes at his behest at the end of the season, has been stellar. He scored his first try for Ireland in his fourth international (USA), his first drop goal (sixth cap, Romania) before the 2000 Six Nations championship in which he announced his prodigious talent with a hat-trick against France at the Stade de France, helping Ireland to secure a first win in Paris since 1972.
Four Lions tours (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013), an ill-fated one as captain in New Zealand, have produced some memorable highlights, not least his brilliant solo try in Brisbane, the ground in which he made his Irish debut. He’s broken so many try-scoring records (Irish, Six Nations) and many others, leading his country with great distinction and becoming a superb ambassador for the game on and off the pitch. He’s won every title possible with Leinster, including three Heineken Cups. He’s proved an outstanding contributor to the sport and for many he represents the first among equals. Led Ireland a record 83 times in his 128 caps.
12 Kevin Maggs
Although a Bristol boy, born and reared, few could match the fanatical commitment that the centre gave to the green jersey. Few cared more and still less would match the utter emotional and physical investment he made to Ireland’s cause. He won 70 caps, scoring 15 tries during a test career that began with a debut against New Zealand in 1997 until his final match against Japan – he scored a try that day – in Osaka (2005).
There was an element of good fortune in how he declared for Ireland.
The Irish coach at the time Brian Ashton travelled to watch David Corkery play for Bristol. The club’s team manager Ralph Knibbs informed Ashton that they had a young centre whose grandfather was from Limerick.
Maggs was a very physical, powerful ball-carrier, a legacy from his days of laying kerbstones, and a brilliant defender. His playing career was divided between Bristol, Bath and Ulster. That day he was winning his 18th cap, and scored a try as he would do a week later in the second test. He was a super foil for O’Driscoll. He took over as head coach of English Championship side Moseley in 2010, a role he still fulfils today.
11 Matt Mostyn
Gatland was considering playing the Sydney native in the number 13 jersey until O’Driscoll stepped up against New South Wales and effectively ended any debate. Mostyn made his debut that day against the country of his birth, going on to win six caps for Ireland and scoring three tries.
His first port of call in Europe was the French club Begles Bordeaux. He spent one season at the French club and a year at Connacht before joining the Newport Gwent Dragons. He played 80 times for the Welsh side in three seasons before rejoining Connacht in the summer of 2003. He made more than 100 appearances for the province – lining out with Galwegians too – before retiring in 2008.
He played four matches for Ireland in the ’99 World Cup, his last cap coming in the defeat to Argentina in Lens. The Pumas were to provide the high point for Mostyn, as well as a subsequent low, as in a pre-World Cup game against Argentina, he crossed for a hat-trick of tries. He was an excellent servant to Connacht, well liked and respected. He lives in Sydney and works for Sherrington Project Management.
10 David Humphreys