Saturday 21 October 2017

Brian O’Driscoll: How my prawn sandwich jibe at England came back to bite me!

Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after Ireland beat England in Twickenham in 2004
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after Ireland beat England in Twickenham in 2004
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Brian O’Driscoll has recalled the day his attempt to call out England ahead of a Six Nations clash worked against him.

Before Ireland's crunch match in Twickenham in 2004, O'Driscoll coined the famous Roy Keane phrase when he said: "Hopefully, we can give the prawn sandwich brigade something to choke on."

Tonight on Newstalk, O'Driscoll claimed it was a slight dig at the corporate fans in the famous old ground but then England manager Clive Woodward used it as motivation for his team.

"I've got nothing to say to Brian O'Driscoll. We do our talking on the pitch. I'm surprised teams haven't learnt that about the English: it's just best to keep quiet," said Woodward at the time.

Ireland may have ended up winning the match but O'Driscoll has admitted he was "brutal" and also took some serious abuse from Lawrence Dallagio during the game.

"I didn’t think that I was calling out England and I made some reference to hoping they choke on their prawn sandwiches which was a play on Roy Keane taking the piss out of the corporates so I was kind of having a laugh but Clive took serious offence to this and used it as a motivational tool, albeit their first game back after a World Cup win we beat them," said O'Driscoll on Off The Ball.

"I remember that game against England, Lawrence Dallaglio got me on the bottom of a ruck and had a few choice words with me and stuck a few into me. It served as a bit of motivation for him, I don’t know if he had his worst game ever!"

Although Ireland walked out if Twickenham as winners, O'Driscoll reflects on those comments with a hint of regret.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Robbie Henshaw, left, during squad training
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Robbie Henshaw, left, during squad training

"I had one of my poorest games for Ireland and I don’t know whether subconsciously I had given them this motivation and as a result it affected my game or if I just had a brutal game. It kind of went under the radar a bit because we won."

Looking ahead to Ireland's Six Nations opener in Rome, O'Driscoll has given the thumbs up to Joe Schmidt and his decision to give Ian Keatley the nod at 10 and pair Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne in the centre.

"Ian Madigan probably had his audition last week and it didn’t go as he would have liked. He hasn’t played much at 10 and I think going with Keatley is probably a smart and shrewd enough move," added O'Driscoll.

"I think what Keatley can do is a little bit better than Madigan can at 10, I still stick by Madigan being a better 12 than 10, but Keatley can facilitate the strengths of the players around him a little bit better than Ian can.

"Ian is an out-and-out game winner himself and he is a fantastic guy to bring on with 10 or 15 minutes to go when you need some scores and something new and fresh.

"But Keatley has a better kicking game for me, a reasonable attacking game but I think picking him at 10 sends out a message as well about Ireland probably not trying to play too much rugby early on and give the Italians something to live off."

And Ireland's former centre genius has no reservations about tomorrow's pairing of Henshaw and Payne.

Jared Payne gets the thumbs up from Brian O'Driscoll
Jared Payne gets the thumbs up from Brian O'Driscoll

“They were first choice centres in November, they would have been first choice against Australia after beating South Africa but Jared got injured in the last few minutes of that game. The only reason you would have picked someone differently is if someone really put their hand up in the last couple of months and been outstanding.

"There were a couple of guys who have shown good form, Luke Fitzgerald has looked decent at 13 but I think he needs a little bit more game time so for me it was a simple enough pick going back to Robbie and Jared."

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