Monday 20 November 2017

O'Driscoll chasing further Euro glory

Hugh Farrelly

AFTER 11 years, 68 appearances, two losing semi-finals and one winner's medal, it is fair to say Brian O'Driscoll has had his share of Heineken Cup experiences.

Yet, as he heads into his 12th campaign -- which kicks off against Racing Metro at the RDS on Saturday -- the Leinster stalwart says his appetite for European glory remains as powerful as ever.

"We got a taste of it in 2009 and we want more," said O'Driscoll. "It's an incredibly tough competition, you need momentum and you need that little bit of luck.

"It's a long haul and you just have to give yourself a chance, not worry about the knockout stages until you get there."

The centre, who made his Heineken Cup debut in November 1999 against Leicester, believes this year's pool of Racing, Top 14 champions Clermont and rejuvenated English outfit Saracens is the hardest he has encountered.


"It's the toughest group I have come across, two French teams and resurgent Sarries" he said.

"Invariably, the French teams at home are the most difficult to beat but it's something you look forward to, things that come the hardest taste the sweetest."

After a difficult September, which saw the province win just one of their four Magners League matches, Leinster gained a huge surge of confidence by beating Munster at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, when O'Driscoll's try proved the difference in an intense 13-9 victory.

"It's getting there," he said of his own form. "But there's a long way to go in terms of confidence and getting back to your best.

"Ideally, we would have a good run of four of five wins heading into Europe, we've only got a couple, but thankfully the most important one came the week before.

"We won't use it (beating Munster) as the be-all, end-all but hopefully as a stepping stone to a good Heineken Cup performance -- and that's the key, don't worry about the result, focus on the performance."

If O'Driscoll's try was critical, Jonathan Sexton's performance off the bench was equally influential and the out-half is delighted to be back in the mix after a frustrating period battling a quad muscle injury.

"There was a nice cheer from one half of the crowd ... and whistles from the other half," chuckled Sexton when recalling the ovation that greeted his second-half introduction.

"It was brilliant to be back. You want to be out there doing your stuff. It was an unbelievably frustrating few weeks because it was such an innocuous injury; anyone else would probably have been able to play but (I couldn't) because it was a kicking injury in a place in the quad where it is loaded up. It's just a case of managing it now and staying on top of it for the next few weeks."

Isa Nacewa has been filling in as place-kicker in Sexton's absence, with considerable success, but the fit-again out-half said he is available to take over if called upon on Saturday.

"I would have been able to (place-kick) last weekend as well," he revealed.

"It was just I didn't have a lot of days before the game practising and Isa had been kicking well and he started the game kicking so there would have been no point coming in and taking over, especially having just come back from a quad injury.

"But I'll be available to take them (kicks) this weekend if I'm told to."

Irish Independent

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