Six Nations 2014: Joe Schmidt hails ‘magician’ Brian O’Driscoll
Joe Schmidt heaps praise on record-breaking "magician" Brian O’Driscoll after his man-of-the match display in win over Italy
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt heaped praise on record-breaking “magician” Brian O’Driscoll after his man-of-the match performance in a 46-7 win over Italy.
It was a record-breaking day for the Leinster centre in his final international appearance at Lansdowne Road as he became the most-capped Test player with 140 appearances for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, as well as setting a new record for Six Nations appearances with 64, taking that honour from former colleague Ronan O’Gara.
“It was an incredibly special day [for Brian]. He made it special because he had a hand in three tries,” Schmidt said.
“His ability to get into space, to get the right pass away at the right time even if he creates a pass that is not out of the textbook…he is a creative man, he is courageous and he has got a bit of class about him.
“In these days of the big, direct running centres, he might be the final bastion along with [his centre partner] Gordon [D’Arcy] for the smaller centre who is a creator of play rather than a direct runner.”
Already clear on points difference at the top of the championship, Ireland gave themselves the perfect platform to seal the title with a win against France in Saint-Denis next week with a seven-try win as they ran riot in the second half in Dublin.
“It’s always a relief when you get what you need out of a game. We needed to win and ideally to win well,” Schmidt added.
“There was a nice little set play that the ‘magician’ managed to get the ball out nicely, perfectly-timed and set up Johnny [Sexton] to get the space, to get the 7-0.
“We put a lot of pressure on and didn’t get the reward. The one thing we felt at half-time is if we could maintain that intensity and that pressure, then the cracks would have to appear.
“We just needed to be patient enough to do that. I said during the week we might have to be patient, that they weren’t going to capitulate for us and we would have to earn the win before we earned the right to chase anything like a differential.”
A win in France is far from a sure thing for Schmidt and his players in what will be an emotional day as Dublin’s favourite son runs out for the last time in the green jersey of Ireland. They have managed just one win in Paris in 42 years, coming in 2000 as O’Driscoll announced himself on the international stage with a hat-trick of tries in a 27-25 win.
O’Driscoll’s honours list is significant, but while he has numerous records to his name and plenty of silverware and medals from his provincial career with Leinster his biggest success with Ireland amounts to four Triple Crowns and a solitary title from their 2009 Grand Slam win.