Monday 22 January 2018

Let's make it a fairytale ending for Brian - Heaslip

'Is everyone looking at me?' Ahead of his record-breaking 140th Test game and last appearance at the Aviva Stadium,
Brian O’Driscoll is able to see the funny side as he poses for the team photo between Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney
'Is everyone looking at me?' Ahead of his record-breaking 140th Test game and last appearance at the Aviva Stadium, Brian O’Driscoll is able to see the funny side as he poses for the team photo between Paul O’Connell and Rob Kearney
Jamie Heaslip wants to win in France to give Brian O'Driscoll the perfect send-off
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JAMIE HEASLIP has described "iconic" Brian O'Driscoll as his generation's Jonah Lomu and said he wants to give the retiring centre a fairytale ending with a Six Nations title.

O'Driscoll (35) will break George Gregan's record to become the most capped player in rugby history in his 140th international today against Italy – his final game for Ireland on home soil.

Ireland sit on top of the table on points difference after three games and a big win over the Azzurri would put them in a commanding position ahead of the grand finale in Paris next weekend.

Vice-captain Heaslip has labelled the penultimate game of this year's tournament against Italy as a "semi-final" and, while he wants to give O'Driscoll a good home send-off this afternoon, he reckons winning the championship by beating France at the venue where the 35-year-old scored his famous hat-trick in 2000 would be the perfect way for him to sign off.

"I suppose the fairytale would be nice," he said of winning the Clontarf's native's final home game.

"I mean, you're probably not human if you can't relate to that. It would be a nice story.

"I think it would be an even nicer story if we were going over to France and winning the Six Nations where, I suppose, he landed.

"I think that's a nicer story but to get there Mick (Kearney, Ireland manager) addressed it really nicely saying it was like a semi-final for us.

"There's nothing after this game and that's why there's no point in thinking about points difference.

"So let's just worry about winning and playing our game plan and if it evolves and happens and we get opportunities, we take them, but otherwise we play to win.

"But yeah, the romantic in me thinks it would be a nice story obviously to send him off."

Yesterday's captain's run at Lansdowne Road threw up no fresh injury concerns for Joe Schmidt, who made just one change to the team that lost to England, with Iain Henderson taking over from the injured Peter O'Mahony.

The coach will do everything he can to maintain his team's focus for this weekend, but all eyes in the stand will be straining for a final glimpse of O'Driscoll in a green jersey on home soil.

There will be no getting away from the centre of attention and Heaslip was asked to sum up his retiring team-mate's contribution to the game.

"I had to do two different videos this week in terms of montages different people are preparing for Brian, and they were trying to sum him up in one word. It was wrecking my head trying to think of something that would sum him up," he said.

"But I just said '13'. When you think of Brian O'Driscoll, you think of 13, you think of an icon in the sport. These kind of characters only come around every so often.

"You can go into how great he is as a professional player and all that but if you really think of it these kind of characters only come around every so often.

"When my generation watched rugby it was Jonah Lomu. For an entire generation Brian is Jonah Lomu – that is how I look at it.

"I'm just lucky that I have been able to play with him for eight years and win amazing things with Brian, playing at the top level you can play at, Lions tour Test games.

Brian O'Driscoll, Brian O'Meara and Victor Costello celebrate Leinster's victory over Munster in the 2001 Celtic League final
Brian O'Driscoll, Brian O'Meara and Victor Costello celebrate Leinster's victory over Munster in the 2001 Celtic League final
Brian O'Driscoll in action for Blackrock College in 1997
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland is tackled by Daniel Herbert, Australia, Australia v Ireland, Subiaco Oval, Perth in 1999 in one of his first caps
Brian O'Driscoll on his way to scoring his first ever try for Ireland against the USA in the 1999 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll scores his first Six Nations try against Scotland in 2000 at Landsdowne Road
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates one of his three tries against France in 2000.
19 March 2000; Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll leaves french full back Emile Ntamack behind to score his third try
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates victory over France in the 2000 Six Nations
Brian O'Driscoll in action against the Springboks in 2000
Brian O'Driscoll makes his Barbarians debut in 2000
Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Henderson and Keith Wood joke around during the 2001 Lions tour
British and Irish Lions player Brian O'Driscoll breaks away to score the third try against Australia during the First Test match at The Gabba, Brisbane, 30th June 2001.
Brian O'Driscoll on his way to scoring his famous try against Australia in the First Test of the 2001 Lions Series.
Brian O'Driscoll tries to get out of a ruck in a game against Australia in 2002
Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie celebrate victory over Australia in 2002
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, kicks a drop goal in the narrow defeat to Australia at the 2003 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll dives over in the corner for a try against Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after Ireland's victory over England in Twickenham in 2004
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with coach Eddie O'Sullivan at the end of the game versus Scotland in Lansdowne Road in 2004 after winning the Triple Crown
Brian O'Driscoll is forced to leave the field after being the victim of a spear tackle that ended his Lions Tour in 2005
BOD holds the Triple Crown trophy aloft after victory over England at Twickenham
Ireland's captain Brian O'Driscoll holds aloft the Triple Crown following the match against England at Twickenham, March 18, 2006.
Brian O'Driscoll dots down against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in 2007
Brian O'Driscoll dives over to score Ireland's first try during the final Pool D match at Parc des Princes in Paris during the 2007 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll scores a brilliantly improvised try for Leinster against Wasps in the Pool Stages of the 2008/09 Heineken Cup
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll tackles Munster's Paul O'Connell during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final in Croke Park.
Brian O'Driscoll races clear of Munster’s Ronan O’Gara, whose pass he intercepted, on his way to scoring his side’s third try in Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final win at Croke Park in 2009
Rocky Elsom with team-mate Brian O'Driscoll in 2009 after Leinster's first Heineken Cup success
Brian O'Driscoll, Rocky Elsom, Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D'Arcy celebrate after Leinster's Heineken Cup victory in 2009
Brian O'Driscoll (centre) of Leinster raises the Heineken Cup after winning the Heineken Cup Final between Leicester Tigers and Leinster at Murrayfield on May 23, 2009
Brian with the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies following Ireland's success in 2009
Brian O’Driscoll captained Ireland to first Grand Slam in 61 years
Brian O'Driscoll in action for the British and Irish Lions in 2009. Photo: Getty Images
Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman tied the knot in July 2010.
Shane Horgan lifting the Heineken Cup with Brian O’Driscoll in 2011. Sportsfile
Shane Horgan celebrates winning the 2011 Heineken Cup with team-mate and friend Brian O'Driscoll
Joe Schmidt with Brian O’Driscoll after the 2011 Heineken Cup final victory.
Brian O'Driscoll trudges off the pitch following Ireland's defeat to Wales in the Rugby World Cup Quarter final in 2011
Gordon D'Arcy, left, and Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster celebrate Leinster's victory in the Heineken Cup in 2011
19 May 2012; Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster, celebrates after the game. Heineken Cup Final, Leinster v Ulster, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, England. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after victory over Ulster. Heineken Cup Final, Leinster v Ulster, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, England. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian O'Driscoll shows his delight at winning the Lions Test series in Australia last year despite being omitted from the final test.
Brian O'Driscoll and his daughter Sadie following the British & Irish Lions victory last year
Brian O'Driscoll throws his boots into the crowd as he celebrates Leinster's win in the Rabodirect Pro12 Grand final last year at the RDS
Brian O'Driscoll on his great partnership with D'Arcy
Brian O'Driscoll sits in the sin bin during Ireland's Six Nations defeat to Italy last year
Brian O'Driscoll: Ireland's most capped centre has suffered multiple high-profile head injuries down the years, most notably during a game against England in 2009
Brian O'Driscoll and his father Frank. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Brian O'Driscoll reacts to the final minute try that helped New Zealand to a 24-22 win at the Aviva last November. BOD never tasted victory over the All Blacks.
Brian O'Driscoll is given a guard of honour at his final captain's run at the Aviva
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, celebrates with team-mate Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney and Dave Kearney at the final whistle.
Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton, left, and Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with the trophy following their side's victory
Brian O'Driscoll of Leinster, looks on during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Toulon and Leinster in April
Brian O'Driscoll and Eoin Reddan leave the pitch in dejection after Leinster were crushed by Toulon in the Heineken Cup quarter-final

"If you asked me when I started playing if I was going to do that with Brian O'Driscoll I'd have said no, and to be play with someone as iconic as him when he has played amazing through the years, it's amazing. You have to pinch yourself a little thinking about it.

"To sum it up I would just say 13, O'Driscoll 13."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport