Modesty forbids O'Driscoll


Even the French could only look on in wonder. Long before the end the boy wonder was drawing gasps of admiration, and not only from the Irish supporters. In the country that has generally given us the most legendary artistes amid the midfield artisans, here was a performance to rank along with the Bonifaces, Masos, Mesnels, Charvets, Sellas et al.

And Brian O'Driscoll wore green. "I'm proud to be Irish," he told the crowd and the world through the public tannoy. Yeah, really? We're pretty delirious about it ourselves too.

His moniker within the Leinster squad, i.e., God, just about does him justice after a performance like this. It wasn't just his mesmerising hat-trick, or even his acceleration and quick-wittedness. It doesn't seem fair that he has so much, for it's not just his pace that beats them, his quick mind does. The match-winning try was a perfect example.

Also, his deft hands and excellent defensive work, in tandem with Henderson, were crucial in stemming the periodic sieges.

Appropriately he was carried shoulder high by his team-mates. How did he feel?

"Embarrassed," replied O'Driscoll with a sheepish smile, "but what can you do when Trevor Brennan tells you you're getting up on his shoulder? You just accept it," he joked.

"An no, a proud moment, but a little bit embarrassing."

Embarrassed as he might be, this will be remembered, rightly, as O'Driscoll's day as much as anyone else.

Never mind London Irish, or Newcastle. Newcastle, for christsakes? That's no place for his talents. If not Dublin, where you'd hope he'd stay for his sake (and he probably will), then Paris, puh-lease. And the word on the grapevine is that the nouveau riche of French rugby, Stade Francais, are the latest to show a real interest.

Would you blame them? For an estimate, David Humphreys' verdict will do nicely. "I don't think you'll find anybody better than him in the world at the minute, and today he proved it."

Such accolades embarrass him, for although he has a cocky streak which any brilliant 21-year-old has to have, O'Driscoll is genuinely shy, especially in the full glare of publicity.

Everybody wants a piece of him, and as the media rounded on him outside the dressingroom, O'Driscoll, his forthrightness disguising a nervousness, said: "Short and sweet".

"An unbelievable experience," he began. "I'm just over the moon for everyone in the team. We showed a lot of guts out there today. "We'd been talking about it during the week and I think we proved out there today that we dug deep in our hearts, and got something out of it that was really, really needed. And I'm just delighted for the whole team today.

"We played with confidence in the last two games and today was no different. We ran some good lines and our support play was good, and I think that was where we got our scores from. It was a case of retaining possession and then breaking them down, and the three tries came from fourth or fifth phase. "It was just a case of holding on to the ball and waiting until their defence weakened a bit and then attacking that."

He conveys a nerveless and free-spirited manner off the pitch as well as on it. "I'm sure it was nerve-wracking up in the stand, but it wasn't really nerve-wracking for us. We were just so tired.

"It was an unbelievably quick game, the quickest game I'd say I've played in at international level and we just knew we weren't going to let them score at the end. It was a case of staying in their half and hoping that the final whistle would blow as quickly as possible."

He's the main young man of the new kids on the block, and France holds only good memories for him. "I won the World Cup at under-19s, that was kind of special as well. So a couple of good days in France alright. But definitely up there with the best of them. I couldn't say it's on its own, but definitely one of them."

When talking about his own display, modesty prevents. Humphreys, he reckons, should have been the one to get carried shoulder high.

"Look at the video again and you'll see that two of the three tries were from three or four yards, and the other one I was just lucky to pick the ball up and there seemed to be a big gap ahead. I don't think there was much in it. It could have been anyone."

As for this mysterious, diamond-shaped or triangular salute for his tries, that is a private message for some friends back home, and he wasn't going to reveal its meaning.

The search will go on, for there'll be plenty more tries where yesterday's came from. Here he is, with seven tries in 11 Tests under his belt, and five in this season's championship.

We're going to run out of superlatives about this guy.