Greg Growden Column
O'Driscoll has the Wallabies worried
February 3, 2013
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates his score against Wales at the Millennium Stadium © PA Photos
The Wallabies are already preparing for that ageless warrior Brian O'Driscoll leading the Lions to Australia.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, during an interview with ESPNscrum before the opening round of Six Nations action, said that he anticipates Lions coach Warren Gatland looking for 'been there, done that' performers when he picks his leaders for the touring squad. Deans assumes O'Driscoll will be high up on Gatland's captaincy 'wish-list', with even Jonny Wilkinson a possibility to be in charge of the Lions midweekers.
Then to reinforce the fact, O'Driscoll used the Wales-Ireland Six Nations opener to remind all that even if he is no longer his country's official team captain, he remains Ireland's helmsman, producing a near faultless performance that emphasised his vast skills.
After such a resourceful effort, Gatland has probably already printed out a London-Sydney airline ticket which has seat 1A assigned to O'Driscoll. And if O'Driscoll continues to dominate over the next month and a half, they may as well get him to pilot the Lions plane to the other side of the world.
The importance of having a mature midfielder, who knows how to keep it simple when under pressure and to take advantage of any half chance, was on show at Millennium Stadium. O'Driscoll set up one try, scored another, stopped anyone who came into his zone, even tapped balls out of opponent's hands and then when Irishmen headed to the sin bin late in the game, showed his versatility by filling in at scrum-half.
So we now know that if No.9s start falling over during an arduous Australian tour, there is a certain someone whom they can call upon. O'Driscoll being able to flit around the scrum base would also open up a spare spot on the reserves bench.
No wonder after the game the Ireland team management admitted they had begun praying that this was not O'Driscoll's last Six Nations campaign. Understandable - as O'Driscoll is the heart and soul of Irish rugby.
In Australia, O'Driscoll is treated with the highest of respect. Maybe that has something to do with him being a bit of a lad off the field, developing over the years strong friendships with Australian sportsmen from numerous codes. On the field, Wallaby after Wallaby has grown accustomed to O'Driscoll either showing them up or just being a complete pest.
Undoubtedly there will be a concerted England push for their captain Chris Robshaw to be in charge of the Lions, and he certainly looked in control against Scotland. But Deans would have seen enough in O'Driscoll's Cardiff dance to start working on the required video tape analysis of Ireland's No.13 to hand to his Wallabies midfielders and to prime his leadership group on what to expect from their assumed opposing skipper.
Ireland see off Wales at the Millennium Stadium%]
It was a busy weekend for Deans, who headed to the rugby backwater of Tasmania to see the new NSW Waratahs recruit Israel Folau play his first major game of rugby after dabbling in rugby league and AFL. He liked what he saw in Folau during the Super Rugby trial match, with his size, speed and ability to handle the high ball bound to work in his favour when the Lions are in town.
Deans then headed back to Sydney to watch the Six Nations coverage, and would have been struck by the eagerness of Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland to play expansive football.
For weeks, we have been hearing that the Six Nations could be bogged down by teams dreading possession and being fearful of getting turned over. Kick-fests were anticipated. Thankfully it didn't happen. Instead in the first two matches came fast, fearless rugby, speed, rhythm and most importantly 12 tries - the bulk of which relied upon invention and vision.
Deans is not the only person saying in this part of the world - "More please!"
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