Paris – Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll said ending his stellar international career with a rare win away against France and taking the Six Nations title to boot was a moment he would treasure for life.
The 35-year-old centre – the world record caps holder with 141 – bowed out in the best possible style as Ireland beat France 22-20 in a pulsating encounter at the Stade de France which also secured them the championship by virtue of a superior points difference to England.
He may not have added to his 47 Test tries – including a Five/Six Nations record haul of 26 – but he was instrumental in their third try scored by Jonathan Sexton which saw them to only their second win in 42 years in Paris.
Suitably it came at the same ground where in 2000 and almost 14 years to the day (the match was on March 19) a callow 21-year-old O'Driscoll had announced he was a great talent by scoring a hat-trick of tries as Ireland beat the French.
“There have been lots of good memories in between,” said O'Driscoll, who had waited patiently on the stage while Ireland coach Joe Schmidt rounded up his post match press conference.
“Obviously 2000 was amazing because it had been 28 years since we won in Paris and to do it 14 years later is incredibly special.
“Not many people get to go out on their own terms and it is one I will treasure.
“Also for the fact that I was part of such a great team and bunch of guys.”
O'Driscoll, who captained Ireland to the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam, said that his decision after a poor Six Nations in 2013 to stay on and play for one more year had paid off.
“It is a feeling of sheer delight to have played on for one more year,” said O'Driscoll, who played in a record 65 Six Nations matches.
“I was hoping for a win over the All Blacks and that didn't happen (the Irish led until the final minute in their November test before losing to a converted try).
“I was also hoping to win the Six Nations and that did happen. You can't have it all but you take what you get.”
O'Driscoll, who despite being so erudite confessed to former captain Keith Wood he felt uncomfortable giving rousing speeches in the changing room when he assumed the captaincy, said he was finding it difficult to take off the green shirt.
“What is it an hour or more since the match finished and here I am still wearing it,” said the man known affectionately in Ireland as BOD and whose biography was titled 'In BOD we trust'.
“I am dragging the arse out of it a little bit but I just don't want to take it off.
“I know I will have to when I take a shower, which I will have to do at some point soon, and it will be hard.
“However, while there have been some nearlies in my career with Ireland when I do take it off it will be with great happiness that it came on a day like today.”
O'Driscoll, son of two doctors and who has a daughter with his actress wife Amy Huberman, said that there had been no tears at the end of the match.
“There were no tears flowing down my face but there was a frog in my throat,” he said.
“Even with the pre-match warm-up (there was a film played with several of present top players including Ireland captain Paul O'Connell paying tribute to him) I just tried to channel those emotions into my performance.
“I think I played fair today. We as a team couldn't let the occasion get the better of us because I am a tiny cog in the wheel.
“Later this evening I am sure there will be a few tears with multiple beers. But it's (the victory) a wonderful way to finish.” – Sapa-AFP