Having returned from shoulder only four weeks ago, Brian O’Driscoll appears to be back to his best, following the surgery that wrecked his season.
O’Driscoll, now 33, is headed towards the finish line in terms of his playing career, but he is still playing at a very high level. Television analysts Dewi Morris, Paul Wallace and Tyrone Howe have stated that the Dubliner has matched the standards that saw him captain the Lions (albeit briefly) during the 2005 Tour of New Zealand and be voted World Player of the Decade by a top rugby magazine.
While Isa Nacewa won the man of the match award for Leinster’s epic 19-15 semi-final win over Clermont Auvergne, anything good that happened for the Irish province during that match, went through O’Driscoll.
That Leinster are there to try and match Leicester’s feat in 2001-’02 of winning back-to-back final wins is in large part due to O’Driscoll’s talismanic performance in that fantastic win in Bordeaux last month, once again putting his body on the line to deliver a massive hit on opposite number Aurelien Rougerie and send a message that the Irish province was not going to lie down on French soil.
“He was very impressive in the semi-final,” Barnes said. “One thing I’d say about Brian is he’s improved and I think (head coach Joe) Schmidt’s going to take a lot of credit for this. ”I felt defensively his reading of the game against Clermont was excellent, he’s come back better than I expected and added a string to his bow.”
Former England half back Dewi Morris labelled O’Driscoll ”The greatest back I have ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go on the 2013 Lions Tour to Australia.”
One thing is almost certain, if Leinster are to win a third Heineken Cup in four years, Brian O’Driscoll will play a large part.
Ulster v Leinster