There is a time for reflection and a time for analysis. Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll made his feelings about equalling Scotland’s Ian Smith’s try-scoring championship record (24) known in no uncertain terms.
In the immediate aftermath of what he clearly viewed as the injustice of a loss to Wales, he was not interested in individual accolades. It was merely a sideshow to Ireland’s demise due to the incompetence of another Scot, the touch judge Peter Allan.
Nonetheless, O’Driscoll is fast-approaching many international rugby milestones. He will equal South African John Smit’s all-time international captaincy mark of 76 tests – the International Rugby Board recognised his lead role for the British & Irish Lions in 2005 – on Saturday.
Already, the Dubliner is Ireland’s leading try-scorer (43). He is also about to move into fourth place ahead of France legend Phillippe Sella (111 caps) in the list of most capped players in international rugby.
Jonny Wilkinson is likely to be England’s replacement fly-half on Saturday. No stranger to the record books, he holds the title of the highest points scorer (1,195) in international rugby.
Wilkinson was quick to point out his enduring respect for a fellow record-breaker: “The last decade has presented amazing times for Brian and I, even if he’s found himself on the field a little more. He’s had a few less injuries,” he said.
“He’s still going strong. He’s a real leader and a big part of why they play well,” stated Wilkinson, ahead of the final day of the Six Nations championship on Saturday.
The England fly-half also took time out to pinpoint England’s 2003 Grand Slam 42-6 crushing of Ireland as the ‘momentum changer’ that was crucial to their World Cup win in Australia later that year.
“I’ll never forget that match in Dublin. It was a big day. We got off to a good start and managed to keep the pedal down, a strategy that will stand us in good stead again this year.
“You’re rarely in that position against a team like Ireland. It was the culmination of lessons learnt and lots of desire,” he said.
Previously, Clive Woodward’s England had been denied the Grand Slam by Wales (32-31) in April 1999, by Scotland (19-13) in April 2000 and by Ireland (20-14) in ‘The Foot and Mouth Season’ in October 2001.
There was a feeling of then or never. Fast-forwarding, England will bring a degree of confidence not felt since the 2003 Rugby World Cup as they travel undefeated to Dublin this weekend. They have mixed the blistering and the banal as a side still not quite in touch with their potential.
“No one in the England camp underestimates how tough it’ll be to win there. It’s a sensational end to the championship. Ireland always bring that passion. The Irish players play even better at home and even better in big situations,” Wilkinson added.