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Better the devil he knows as O'Driscoll aims to maintain strong record against Wales

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Brian O'Driscoll during the Ireland Rugby Squad Captain's Run

Brian O'Driscoll during the Ireland Rugby Squad Captain's Run

Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Lions head coach Warren Gatland

Lions head coach Warren Gatland

Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

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Brian O'Driscoll during the Ireland Rugby Squad Captain's Run

IF THERE'S devil in detail, then it's more than a little spooky that Brian O'Driscoll has a 66.6pc win record against the Welsh as he prepares to bid farewell to the rugby chapter of his life.

He averages a score in nearly every other game. His first came in the 2001 win at the Millennium Stadium, gifted by Shane Williams in an odd 36-6 thrashing and the emotions have flitted between triumph (2009 Grand Slam, when O'Driscoll scored a crucial try from yards out in Cardiff) and disaster (World Cup exit in 2011).

Ten years ago, O'Driscoll (pictured) was first permed with Gordon D'Arcy in midfield and the Blackrock man scored a brace in another of those early 2000 shellackings. We reckon the world's highest-capped midfield pairing will be teaming up again this weekend, which could be a fine omen for O'Driscoll to end his career against Wales on a high.

Not surprisingly, he is a runaway leader in terms of appearances (15) and scoring (seven tries) in Six Nations ties between the countries.

P W D L Tries

15 10 0 5 7

Number of the Week

6 Once again on a Six Nations weekend, Ireland were bottom of the pile when it came to offloading. If Ireland's attack is to reach the heights it did for half an hour against New Zealand last November, this number needs to radically improve.

GATLAND'S MEN MORE COMFORTABLE ON THE ROAD

WARREN GATLAND was keen to point out at Tuesday's team announcement that his side haven't lost an away Six Nations tie since ending the 2011 edition with a meek 28-9 defeat in France.

This particular tie has some quirks that support the away team being narrowly favoured. Wales have won more times – 18 to 17 – with three draws, in their last 38 meetings with Ireland at Saturday's venue. Wales still handsomely lead the overall head-to-head by 65-48.

Since the end of Wales' 1970s heydays, every decade since has produced more away wins than home wins – indeed, it is three times more likely to happen.

With Gatland's side enjoying their best ever away sequence – five on the bounce over their two consecutive championship-winning seasons – it is easy to see why any value with the bookmakers rests on their shoulders.

There were three home victories on the opening weekend, only the 12th time that a round has been completely dominated by home teams and only the second occasion an opening round has finished thus – the other was in 2006.

However, round two has never seen three home wins.

Flashback

Ireland 14 Wales 0

Lansdowne Road, March 14, 1970

If the 1970s is remembered as the golden age of Welsh rugby, the decade began with a forgettable flop for Wales fans as Ireland, led by the rampaging Ulster No 8 Ken Goodall, dismantled the side chasing a Triple Crown.

The King himself, Barry John, was almost relegated to history before he started to make it and he didn't thank us for ruining his lunch when reminding him of when we last spoke. Wales nearly dropped him after this game and the legendary partnership with Gareth Edwards almost never made it to 1971.

Two days later, the famed halves turned out in Cardiff against Maesteg; they had another mare and were roundly given the bird by home fans. Edwards would lose the Welsh captaincy; mercifully not his place.

History would afford Edwards and John the opportunity to make amends. Posterity will forever be grateful.

Ireland – T Kiernan (capt); A Duggan, B Bresnihan, M Gibson, W Brown; B McGann, R Young; S Millar, K Kennedy, P O'Callaghan, M Molloy, W-J McBride, R Lamont, F Slattery, K Goodall.

Wales – JPR Williams; SJ Watkins, SJ Dawes, WH Raybould, I Hall; B John, G Edwards capt; D Williams, J Young, DB Llewellyn, WD Thomas, TG Evans, WD Morris, TM Davies, D Hughes.

Quote of the Week

"Basteraud is like a black John Hayes that can move very quickly" – Ronan O'Gara, in one weekend, not only soars to the top of the RTE punditry charts, but provides probably the one-liner of the whole championship.

Team of the week

Rob Kearney (Ireland); Yoann Huget (France), Michele Campagnaro (Italy), Wesley Fofana (France), George North (Wales); Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Danny Care (England); Cian Healy (Ireland), Dimitri Szarzewski (France), Nicolas Mas (France); Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), Courtney Lawes (England); Peter O'Mahony Ireland), Chris Henry (Ireland), Billy Vunipola (France).

Irish Independent