Will we have BOD on our side for much longer?
All of which serves to remind us rugby remains very much a team game and outstanding individual performances hinge on the collective display. It is true the accompanying table highlights a diminishing number of home matches in latter years, primarily as he was sidelined both for last season’s Six Nations and the November Guinness Series.
Nevertheless it also underlines consistently high-quality performances and durability over 14 seasons, and it is this, as much as his many days and moments of brilliance, captaining Ireland to a Grand Slam and three Triple Crowns as well being a three-time Lions’ tourist and captain, that leaves no room for argument regarding his status as Ireland’s greatest rugby player. End of.
He made his home debut in August 1999 against Argentina in a World Cup warm-up match at the old Lansdowne Road, having earned his first Test cap on the preceding June tour to Australia. In all, 62 of his 123 Test caps have been earned on home soil, and with 48 wins, a draw and 13 defeats, he has enjoyed an extraordinary win ratio of 77 per cent (compared to 62 per cent for Ireland).
Nor, a little surprisingly, is his strike rate notably higher at home, given he has scored 25 of his 46 Test tries for Ireland in home games. Of those, O’Driscoll scored 19 in his 45 Tests at Lansdowne Road, be it the old ground or the Aviva Stadium, where his win ratio with Ireland is 75.5 per cent.
Remarkably, O’Driscoll has only missed 11 games at home through injury in 14 seasons, playing in every home game until autumn 2005, when without him and Paul O’Connell, Ireland lost 45-7 to New Zealand and 30-14 to Australia, before beating Romania.
Most infuriatingly of all, the next time he was sidelined for a home match was Ireland’s first game at Croke Park, against France in February 2007 when, of course, a try by Ireland’s bête noire Vincent Clerc denied Ireland victory at the death.
Until last November, the only subsequent games he missed were World Cup warm-up matches in 2007 and 2011, and only then did Ireland show signs of managing to cope without their talisman with wins over Italy, Scotland and Argentina last year.
Nevertheless, the win ratio of 75.5 per cent with O’Driscoll in Lansdowne Road, dips to 36 per cent in the 11 games without him (four wins and seven defeats).
Statistics, damned lies and statistics? To a degree perhaps, but he has also been rather good. Still is too, and the hope remains we have the opportunity to more or less cut and paste the accompanying statistics a year hence.