Six Nations Championship
O'Driscoll not finished with Ireland career yet
February 2, 2009
Brian O'Driscoll has some important games ahead as Ireland skipper © Getty Images
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll will have to put together a convincing portfolio of performances during the Six Nations if he is to repay Declan Kidney's faith in his abilities as a leader and signal his credentials to lead the British and Irish Lions for a second time in the summer.
O'Driscoll, now 29 and holder of the Irish record for caps as captain, has been maligned in certain quarters as a shadow of his former self since Ireland's failure at the 2007 World Cup, with Munster's Paul O'Connell many people's choice to replace him as captain.
Having stood down from the Leinster captaincy to concentrate on his own game at the start of the season, Ireland fans will hope to see some of the guile and confidence return to his running game during the tournament. With his defensive work as strong as ever, it has been his lack of cutting edge and pace that has drawn most concern.
"Well, I'm not as quick as I was as a 22-year-old, though I wouldn't say I'm a snail," he said. "Obviously my knowledge of the game is greater than it was. I've run such and such a line 70 times in games, so I have a lot of ideas about how I want to break down a defence.
"Yes, I've changed, but not necessarily for the worse. I certainly try to be a good defender, but it's not just about tackling. You can be a great tackler and a bad defender, so it's about marrying the two.
"If I thought my defence was poor, that would disappoint me first and foremost."
O'Driscoll can often be seen competing for the ball on the floor, scrapping as if an extra flanker, and as much as this may frustrate fans he has worked hard to get to this point.
"I remember growing up, being smaller than everyone else, and just feeling a little bit fragile," he said. "I wouldn't want to use the word yellow but... I wasn't confident in my physical ability to take people on. Then I grew into myself and that wasn't a fear any more.
"But I still hate the concept of people thinking of me as a yellow person. That has driven me on."
With his appetite for leading Ireland undiminished, O'Driscoll has also worked hard to marry his desire to play with a professional and thoughtful program to extend his playing career at elite level.
"I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an element of self-doubt. You do think 'maybe it's not going to come as easy as it did'," he said. "But there comes the work ethic. And that's something I've definitely improved upon - preparation, training, nutrition, earlier nights.
"I must admit I was bit apprehensive going down to Cork for Declan's first squad session but it rejuvenated me. I felt as though I was going to start learning things again."