Clermont Auvergne 15-19 Leinster, Heineken Cup semi-final
O'Driscoll delighted to come through tough test
April 30, 2012
Veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll was at the heart of Leinster's gutsy victory over Clermont Auvergne in Bordeaux © Getty Images
Leinster centre Brian O'Driscoll was a relieved man after his side booked another Heineken Cup final appearance with victory against "probably the best team in France" in Bordeaux on Sunday.
The defending champions extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 14 games and set up an all-Irish showdown against Ulster with a gutsy 19-15 victory over Top 14 giants Clermont Auvergne and O'Driscoll was understandably delighted to come through such a severe test.
"It's hard to immediately kind of rank it but it feels great because it was one of those games that was really going to test us as a side, and question whether we were up to winning in France and it's great to get through that," the 33-year-old told the Irish Times. "...They're probably the best team in France at the moment and now that they've won their first French championship this was the next thing that they were after - they really wanted to lift that Heineken Cup."
Victory against their provincial rivals in the Twickenham showpiece on May 19 will bring a third title in four seasons and cement their status as one of the all-time great sides but O'Driscoll is not getting carried away. "To give ourselves the chance to win three in four years is great but that's all it is - an opportunity. There's still a lot of playing left and I'm sure that there'll be a province will think that their team can do a job on us."
The bruising battle at the Stade Chaban Delmas was only O'Driscoll's fifth appearance following a lengthy lay-off after shoulder surgery and is relishing entering the crunch times of the season relatively fresh. "It's just very exciting, it really is," said O'Driscoll. "All the hard work of coming back from injury and from surgery is to play in those big games and to test yourself, and it's nice when the test comes out on the right side and you get a positive result. It makes all that hard graft worthwhile.
"That first 20-25 minutes was so quick and so tough, but those things, they can't go for 80 minutes and you've just got to hang tough. Yeah, it's hugely fulfilling to be able to play and win in those types of games because that's not for the faint-hearted."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.