Thursday 2 October 2014

Brian the Lion can't stop roaring

British & Irish Lions Squad, Tour To Australia 2013 30/4/2013
Brian O'Driscoll
Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Billy Stickland
O'Driscoll has soldiered on and has chosen to go on his last big adventure to Australia
Brian O'Driscoll is greeted by his wife Amy and daughter Sadie after the game.  Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll is greeted by his wife Amy and daughter Sadie after the game.
09 March: A bloodied Brian O’Driscoll reacts to Ireland's draw with France in the Six Nations

Between a ruck and a hard place: why our favourite rugby star will find it so hard to hang up his boots

A few weeks ago, Brian O'Driscoll came home to his wife Amy and baby Sadie after what must have seemed like an average day at the office.

He had just played yet another tempestuous rugby international against France, and arrived back with a typical toll of injuries – a dead leg, concussion and a lacerated ear.

As he said later, his baby daughter didn't care much. "She still wanted her nosebag at 11pm, 3am, and 7am and decided I was the man for the job."

O'Driscoll seems to be delighting in his new role as a father.

"It's great that after games it does become irrelevant what you do on the Saturday," he said in an interview. "Rugby is hugely important in my life but not as important as what's happening at home with a new daughter."

O'Driscoll added yet more lustre to a career of almost unrivalled achievement this week when he was selected to play for the British and Irish Lions in Australia. It will be his fourth tour.

Fans remember how he travelled to Brisbane as a young lad in 2001 for his first test match with the Lions, and lit up the rugby world.

In his red shirt he ran half the length of the field and danced around his Australian opponents with Pele-like virtuosity to score a try.

The crowd sang Waltzing O'Driscoll.

He was joined on that tour by that other injury-prone star of world rugby, Jonny Wilkinson.

This week, Wilkinson was offered a place on the tour, but turned it down, partly because he wanted to protect his body from the savage shocks of rugby in what may be the final months of his career.

But O'Driscoll has soldiered on and has chosen to go on his last big adventure to Australia having survived an injury toll that must be equivalent to multiple car crashes.

He emerges from every match like an Aston Martin that has been sent stock car racing in a demolition derby.

The sight of O'Driscoll being stretchered off is a frighteningly familiar one, whether for a knee to the head, a bone-crushing tackle, or as on the Lions Tour in 2005, when he was up-ended by two All Blacks and crashed to the ground.

Brian's father, Dr Frank O'Driscoll, could be forgiven for describing that notorious incident, which put him out of the Lions tour, as "every parent's nightmare".

He seemed as disoriented as a punch-drunk boxer and was clearly unsteady on his feet as he was assisted from the pitch.

Spectators were stunned when he returned just a few minutes later and re-entered the fray. Wearing a bandage, he looked like Basil Fawlty in the episode of the sitcom when he returns home prematurely from hospital.

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