TTT’s attempt at a BOD tribute

It started in Paris. It ended in Paris.

Well actually, technically, it didn’t start in Paris because the debut had been made nine months prior, on Ireland’s 1999 summer tour to Australia, and he’d been part of Ireland’s 1999 Rugby World Cup campaign.

But the real magic started in Paris.

On that spring afternoon in 2000, Brian O’Driscoll truly announced his arrival on the international rugby scene with a hat-trick at the Stade de France. A hat-trick that involved searing breaks, devastating support lines and sublime hands, all the while making crunching hits and try-saving tackles. The rest, as they say, is history. Here are a few memories:

THAT try for the Lions against Australia:

THAT hit on Danie Roussouw:

THAT pass to himself against Ulster:

THAT bit of skill in Lions training:

While it’s impossible to compare him to centres through the generations, what is certain is that no player has consistently been at the height of the game for such an extensive length of time nor been as important to Irish rugby in the professional era. While it may amaze you to hear that, despite being shortlisted three times (2001, 2002 & 2009) he’s never won the IRB International Player of the Year Award, he’s won pretty much everything else.

A one-club man, with Leinster he’s won the Celtic League/Pro 12 three times (2002, 2008 & 2013), the Heineken Cup three times (2009,  2011 & 2012) and the Amlin Cup (2013), while for Ireland he’s an IRB Under 19 Rugby World Champion (1998) and a Triple Crown winner four times (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009), the last of those of course being Ireland’s Grand Slam winning 6 Nations campaign.

His cumulative 6 Nations record speaks for itself. He leads the tournament’s all-time stats for tries scored (26), metres gained (2,544), clean breaks (67), defenders beaten (163) – almost twice as many as the elusive Jason Robinson in second place with 85, turnovers won (53) and offloads (82). And he’s a very close second in carries, tackles and try assists.

Add in Four Lions tours, four World Cups, the IRB International Try of the Year in 2008 and Rugby World’s World Rugby Player of the Decade (2000–09) and you’ve got what could be considered to be a vaguely reasonable rugby CV.

And on Saturday, 5,109 days after that fateful day in Paris, BOD brought his 6 Nations career full circle, helping Ireland to seal their second 6 Nations title in the professional era, with a win at same venue.

It was understandably not his greatest performance. It’s impossible to fathom the weight of emotion bearing down on those shoulders and, as if carrying that weight around the field with him, he was quiet. He slipped off a tackle here and was bounced by Mathieu Bastareaud there but, while it might not have been vintage BOD, some incisive breaks through the French line and a work rate as if he had just put on the jersey for the first time still deemed it worthy of the Man of the Match award. The Beeb were probably worried about a potential backlash of Irish fans boycotting the tournament in future years had it gone to anyone else.

Thus he signed off and in doing so, took an enormous metaphorical bow from the world stage. The rugby world applauded. Too modest to actually bow though, he humbly blended into the rest of the Irish team as captain Paul O’Connell lifted the trophy.

This emotionally charged tribute to him by adidas [while slightly eulogistic and overdone on the face make-up] has been doing the rounds:

Legends of the game have sung their praise:

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