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O'Driscoll's Swansong in Dublin

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O'Driscoll in what is probably his last appearance in DublinAs Brian O’Driscoll walked down the tunnel after Ireland’s bruising encounter with France on Saturday every camera in the stadium was focused on him. I am certain that every Ireland rugby fan on the planet was watching his body language, trying to read his expression, and asking themselves the question; is this the last time O’Driscoll will play for Ireland in Dublin?

Brian O’Driscoll has been a marvellous servant to his country. He has been a role model on and off the pitch, his quiet disposition and cheeky press conferences endearing him to many. He holds the Ireland record for appearances as captain and tries scored. He has scored the most tries in Six Nations history, and is the leading try scorer for a player in his position.

These impressive stats don’t even go close to representing what a special player O’Driscoll was. He has changed the way the game is played, reinventing his position. He sees space on the pitch, gaps in defences that no others could. He has been touted by many as the best player to every grace a rugby pitch.

O’Driscoll attended Blackrock College when he was younger, a school famous for budding Ireland internationals. He was successful for them, but it was suggested by coaches he was too small to progress further. Fortunately for O’Driscoll and Ireland fans he had a growth spurt, and from there his career went from strength to strength. He joined Leinster at 20 and has remained there his entire career, winning several league titles and European cups with them. He was actually capped for Ireland before he appeared for Leinster, becoming talismans in both sides. He has been selected for the last three Lion’s tours, and captained them in 2005.

After such a decorated career, it was always going to be difficult for fans to see him go, which is why this six nations campaign has been such a tough one for Ireland fans. He has said in many interviews leading up to it that it will probably be his last, he has stepped aside from his role as captain and he has not been able to impose himself on matches as he once did.

So on Saturday, supporters were effectively bidding farewell to him. The torrential rain in Dublin was indicative of the mood around the stadium. In a tournament which many had hoped would be a swan song for O’Driscoll, Ireland had in fact faltered and spluttered their way through their first three matches, only winning one of them. They were then faced with their old rivals, France in Dublin. O’Driscoll was exemplary in the match, playing a hugely physical game as so many have become used to seeing. He took several big knocks during the match and although he was persuaded to leave the field for treatment ten minutes from the end, he still hobbled back on. The game finished 13-13, which was disappointing in what was most likely O’Driscoll’s last ever game for Ireland in Dublin. After the game he looked up, in to the rain and around the crowd, many of whom were sporting the ever present ‘In BOD We Trust’ T shirts. He then posed for a photo with a supporter and walked off down the tunnel, making way for a new era of players. He was a great servant of the game and will be severely missed by all rugby fans, irrespective of who they support.

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