First day as captain doesn’t come naturally
From the archives: Brian O’Driscoll column
Brian O’Driscoll: the 2002 model
The captaincy for me this week was about encouraging people. It was about trying to give them confidence to play their normal game. In a big match if the opposition gets close people become afraid to make mistakes, but if you go into yourself as a team 1 think that’s when the mistakes come.
I thought with 20 minutes to go against Australia we had the winning of the game if we trusted our defence. At last all the hard work of our defence coach, Mike Ford, has paid off. He deserved this.
Our front five were absolutely exceptional, Keith, Anthony, Victor too. As a pack the eight were outstanding. Our half backs kicked intelligently and defensively, the rest of the team did what was required.
A cliche it might be but it was a 15-man game that beat the world champions on this occasion.
In the match we’d made it clear about setting the tone very early on and we’d hoped that Australia wouldn’t be so keen if we got in their faces and didn’t let them play their usual style of rugby – you know, disrupt them, like Argentina did, but in a more organised way than that.
Obviously it wasn’t a day to be flamboyant with throwing the ball around. We had to play the conditions. Granted, the very soft pitch didn’t suit a fast, hard running game, but in Ireland you have to come to expect conditions like we had. You go with it, and 1 think we coped with the conditions better than they did.
Actually, when I woke up Saturday I was a bit tired from the whole week. It had kind of taken a lot out of me. Typically, it took a knock on the door from Keith Gleeson to tell me everyone was waiting for me. Denis Hickie also rang me at the same time.
I’d just got back from breakfast, I’d had a very late one, so it was s**t late ... I ran over to the room and it was the usual “ha ha” from all the guys. I thought the meeting was 15 minutes later so that was a good start to the day anyway.
After that we went over to UCD and went indoors to run through our lineouts and that sort of thing. Usually we’re outside, but the weather conditions were so bad. I’d put a considerable amount of thought into the captain’s meeting on Friday. It was the first time for me and it doesn’t come naturally. It was probably the part of the captaincy which I had most difficulty with. I don’t mind talking on the pitch because the adrenalin gets you going and words flow freely but when you’re all stuck together in a room and it’s more formal and there’s silence and you have to say something, you have to make sure it’s interesting to people and you’re not just talking for the sake of talking.
That’s not my cup of tea, but it is something that I had to come to terms with.
Keith (Wood) is obviously very free flowing with his talk.He’s done it 30-odd times. Anthony (Foley) is a very good talker and doesn’t mind being put on the spot, but the type of captain I’d see myself as being is one who leads more by actions than words. I leave the chatting up to those who are more vocal.
I know when Keith is captain he introduces the players to President McAleese, but there were also times that he didn’t do it. So I thought it was best to go with the option of introducing them. I’d a couple of smart comments along the line from the likes of Denis, him sort of saying to the President that I wasn’t doing a bad job for my maiden captaincy. She was like “oh yeah, not a bad job at all”. She also knows David Humphreys, but for me it was just going down the line saying names.
The win was a step up and if Australia coach Eddie Jones said the conditions suited us, then I don’t know if he’s been watching our game over the last 18 months. We like keeping the ball in hand and we have the backs to do it now. Our skill levels have improved considerably.
As a result we’re scoring more tries now than we have done in the past. If it were a sunny day we’d have taken that as well.
Sure, Australia had an off-day. Let’s call a spade a spade, but we played well, our defence was better than theirs and Ronan [O’Gara] kicked six out of six. We proved a point to ourselves that we can do it.
Edited extract of Brian O’Driscoll’s column in The Irish Times on November 11th, 2002. Ireland had beaten Australia 18-9 courtesy of six O’Gara penalties