O'Driscoll the man for all seasons

We plot Brian O’Driscoll’s incredible Six Nations journey.

Ireland: 3rd W3 L2

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 25 T5

A hammering by England at Twickenham on his Six Nations debut is forgotten in the next game with a first championship try, against Scotland. By the end of game four a star had been born as 21-year-old O’Driscoll scored a stunning hat-trick of very different tries against France, to help deliver Ireland’s first win in Paris for 28 years. The final try of the afternoon was a peach, as he gathered the ball off the turf after Peter Stringer had been tackled making his pass, danced through French tackles and swooped over the line. He scored five tries that championship season, a feat for an Irishman matched only by Tommy Bowe in 2012.

Ireland: 2nd W4 L1

O’Driscoll: P4 Pts 10 T2

Missed the opening game, a win in Italy, but then hit the French with another try for a second straight victory over Les Bleus. Then the foot and mouth disease outbreak put a halt to the championship until the autumn, by which time “Waltzing O’Driscoll” had become a global star during the Lions tour to Australia. Hopes of a Grand Slam were halted on the resumption in September, though, with defeat at Murrayfield, but the campaign finished on a high with a try in victory over Wales in Cardiff before England’s own Slam ambitions were dashed at the final hurdle back at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland: 3rd W3 L2

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 15 T3

The Leinster centre cemented his stardom in ‘02 by grabbing his second hat-trick of tries in the championship, scored against Scotland at Lansdowne Road on March 2 to prove the kid in green was here to stay. Two of his scores were further examples of his remarkable fielding skills off the deck, one of which saw him pick up and change directions in an instant to wrongfoot several Scots, the other time scooping the ball up surrounded by opponents in his own 22 to race clear. He remains the only player to score two Six Nations hat-tricks.

Ireland: 2nd W4 L1

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 5 T1

A campaign of landmarks for O’Driscoll, who is handed the captaincy by coach Eddie O’Sullivan , succeeding Keith Wood and with his only try of the championship that year, scored against Italy in Rome, broke Brendan Mullin’s national record with his 18th try for Ireland. It was first blood in a long-running battle for the Irish try-scoring record with provincial team-mate, winger Denis Hickie.

Ireland went into the final game with hopes of securing a long-awaited Grand Slam, only for Clive Woodward’s side to snuff that out at Lansdowne Road with a 42-6 hammering of O’Driscoll’s side.

Ireland: 2nd W4 L1

O’Driscoll: P4 Pts 15 T3

Now equipped with go faster blond highlights in his hair, captain O’Driscoll led Ireland to the first of four Triple Crowns in the noughties. He had missed the opening game, a defeat to France in Paris, but returned to lead the Irish to four wins from four in their remaining matches. He scored twice against Wales, the second of which pushed off Hickie as Ireland’s record try scorer on 23. And in a mixed bag against Italy in the penultimate game in Dublin, O’Driscoll received his first Six Nations yellow card but scored a try that drew him level with George Stephenson’s Irish home championship record of 14. More importantly, the Triple Crown was secured against Scotland at Lansdowne Road in the final game.

Ireland: 3rd W3 L2

O’Driscoll: P4 Pts 10 T2

After two runners-up finishes in 2003 and 2004, the Ireland bandwagon finally looked to be heading towards that long-elusive second Grand Slam after victories in the first three games of 2005.

O’Driscoll’s 58th minute try against England in the third game, at Lansdowne Road, proved the game winner as Ireland took the win, 17-13. It also meant O’Driscoll broke Stephenson’s Irish mark that has stood since the 1920s.

He scored in the next game too, only for the Irish bid to hit a speed bump as O’Driscoll finished on the losing side in Dublin, before a second successive Triple Crown was denied them by the Welsh in Cardiff in the campaign finale.

Ireland: 2nd W4 L1

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 0

O’Driscoll and his Ireland side bounced straight back from the disappointment of the previous year and the captain was front and centre as he led his country to second Triple Crown in three seasons, completed at Twickenham with a 28-24 win against England. The captain also picked up the first of his three player of the championship awards but once again the Slam denied O’Sullivan and his players, their only defeat coming in round two against the French at Stade de France.

Ireland: 2nd W4 L1

O’Driscoll: P4 Pts 5 T1

Another Triple Crown for O’Driscoll and his troops, begun by the captain with a try against Wales on the opening day in Cardiff. Yet it was frustration again as the ultimate prize eluded the Irish, who suffered defeat in round two in their historic first game at Croke Park against, yet again, the French. There were still plenty of highlights, though, and after holding John Hayes upright during an emotional round of anthems at Croke Park in the following game, O’Driscoll led his side to a record 43-13 victory over England on the way to a Triple Crown secured in Murrayfield against the Scots. Once again, he was named the player of the Six Nations.

Ireland: 4th W2 L3

O’Driscoll: P4 Pts 0

A sorry World Cup campaign in France in the autumn of 2007 was followed by Ireland’s lowest finish of the Six Nations era, as O’Sullivan’s team suffered losses in Paris and Twickenham, as well as at home to Wales in what would be the head coach’s final championship.

Ireland: 1st W5 L0

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 23 T4 DG1

If 2008 was the nadir, it was followed by an incredible high point as O’Driscoll, retained as captain by new coach Declan Kidney, led Ireland not just to a fourth Triple Crown but finally ended a 61-year drought by delivering a Grand Slam. And he led by example too, contributing four crucial tries and a drop goal, against England at Croker on his way to a third player of the tournament award. Nowhere was O’Driscoll’s huge contribution to the cause better exemplified than in the decider against Wales at the Millennium Stadium, when he lived up to his warrior billing by wading in to the base of a ruck and flying out of it like a back row, ball in hand, through more bodies to score a try. Unforgettable and followed by a starring role in Leinster’s first Heineken Cup success later that season.

Ireland: 2nd W3 L2

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 5 T1

The title defence did not go according to plan as Ireland returned to the runners-up berth after losing in Paris and then providing Scotland with their first win in Dublin in the Six Nations era in the final game. There was more recognition for O’Driscoll, though, as he made his 100th appearance for Ireland against Wales in round four, leading his side to victory on a memorable and landmark day.

Ireland: 3rd W3 L2

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 15 T3

As inconsistency began to take a grip on Ireland, there was a further retreat down the table following a narrow home defeat to France and controversial loss in Wales but O’Driscoll ended the campaign on a high as England were once again denied a Grand Slam by the Irish in Dublin, the captain scoring a try in the 24-8 victory over Martin Johnson’s side that broke Ian Smith’s 78-year-old Championship try-scoring record with his 25th in the Six Nations.

Ireland: 3rd W2 D1 L2

O’Driscoll: P0

Post-World Cup shoulder surgery forced O’Driscoll to miss much of the season that followed Ireland’s quarter-final defeat to Wales in Wellington in October 2011. It meant that O’Driscoll missed a Six Nations championship campaign for the first time in his career, with Paul O’Connell stepping in as captain.

Ireland: 5th W1 D1 L3

O’Driscoll: P5 Pts 5 T1

There was controversy before the championship began as Jamie Heaslip, who led Ireland in O’Driscoll’s absence during the November Tests, retained the captaincy for the Six Nations. O’Driscoll shrugged off the demotion by turning in a triumphant performance in the opening game against Wales in Cardiff, scoring a try creating another for Simon Zebo with an exquisite pass before leading some defensive heroics at the other end, complete with bandaged head as Ireland hung on for victory. Much like Ireland’s campaign, though, what started with a bang went out with a whimper, O’Driscoll receiving a first-half yellow card in a sorry first Six Nations defeat to Italy in Rome.

Brian O’Driscoll: The Six Nations chronicles

Test debut

12/6/1999 v Australia

First Test try

2/10/1999 v USA

Six Nations

Debut: 5/2/2000 v England

First try: 19/2/2000 v Scotland

2000-13: P60 W41 D1 L18

Pts: 133; Tries: 26; Drop goals: 1; Yellow cards: 2

Championship records: Most tries (26); Most starts (60); Most minutes (4699); Most as captain (41)

As captain: P41 W31 L10 Win rate: 75.6%

By country

Scotland: P12 W9 L3 Pts 25 Tries 5

Wales: P13 W9 L4 Pts 35 Tries 7

England: P12 W8 L4 Pts 18 Tries 3

Italy: P12 W11 L1 Pts 25 Tries 5

France: P11 W4 D1 L6 Pts 30 Tries 6.


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