O'Driscoll: I'm not going to Australia for the T-shirt
THE enduring ambition of Brian O'Driscoll represents one of the most remarkable chapters in Irish and Lions sporting history.
In rugby and indeed sporting terms O'Driscoll is already a legend. His facility for conjuring up moments of inspiration is remarkable and, in an Irish context, beyond comparison.
He is the most decorated Irish player in history but, unfortunately, his incredible range of achievements is not wide enough to embrace three huge aspirations. He has never enjoyed a rewarding World Cup experience, he has never featured on a winning team against New Zealand and he has not been part of a successful Lions tour.
It is open to debate as to whether the first two of those ambitions can be fulfilled at this stage of his career. However, the upcoming months will provide him a last opportunity with the Lions as he embarks on his fourth and final tour.
"It's not about going down there (Australia) for the fun of it," said O'Driscoll. "I've got the T-shirt from all the different parts of Australia. I do love touring Australia. But the be-all and end-all is winning the series."
O'Driscoll confirmed he is giving serious contemplation to prolonging his career by at least one more season and is enthused at the possibility of not just continuing to work with Joe Schmidt at international level but also being a part of Matt O'Connor's Leinster.
"It's an exciting prospect," he said. "I've spoken to Matt and he clearly knows his rugby. I've also spoken to a couple of people that have worked with him and they only have good things to say about him.
"He is inheriting a team that has a good drive and desire to work hard and put themselves in a position to go well. But we just need a bit of shape and some systems to be put in place to get us into those situations.
"I think he's very capable of delivering those things on top of what Joe has done."
O'Driscoll is well aware of the chants of 'one more year' that have become a ritual for Leinster fans in recent weeks – "better they're saying 'one more year' than 'one less'" – but there is no disguising the desire to leave on his own terms.
"No one wants to have their time dictated to them. Everyone wants to go out on their own terms but the reality is that it happens to so few," he said.
There is no disputing O'Driscoll's continuing skill, of course, best exemplified by his selection for the Lions tour. As a player he has a flawless instinct and a work ethic that borders on slavish.
So often over the course of his career when an Ireland or Leinster performance has flagged, O'Driscoll has been the one to lift his colleagues above the quagmire of mediocrity.
That load has, he admitted, taken a toll over the years and O'Driscoll does operate under a modified training regime.
"It's not specific injuries. But it takes me longer to recover the morning after matches," he admitted. "For example, if I stand for half an hour my back will start seizing up on me, so I need to sit down or I need to lie down or get the foam roller out or a hockey ball to try and work the muscle out.
"I never used to do that. Cian Healy is not doing that. So that career of 15 years has a cumulative effect of stiffening you up."
O'Driscoll's three-week break after the Six Nations when he was suspended was, he acknowledged, not ideal but that time off, allied to his break following ankle surgery, means he is relatively refreshed facing into the Lions.
"It definitely worked to my advantage having some time off and being able to get back into the gym and give the few niggles that I did have throughout the Six Nations a chance to heal," he said.
The possibility of winning a Lions series is an ambition that burns bright and, while allowing for Australia's excellence, he does believe it could be fourth time lucky for him.
"I think there is every chance of winning the series," he said.
"The games will be tight because the Australians will be well organised by the time they come together in June but looking at the Lions squad it is powerful and has a nice balance to it. There is a great opportunity to win a series down there."