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Monday 11 December 2017

Every game can be your last: Drico

Centre insists fire still burns as he hits 100 caps at Croker

The fire that burns inside of Brian O'Driscoll will make him the second Irishman, and the 14th player in the history of the game, to reach 100 caps for his country when he walks out against Wales at Croke Park on Saturday.

And guess what? He is far from finished: "I've always approached it like the next game in a green shirt is my last. With that policy you can't go far wrong. And it's not over yet."

It certainly isn't for the man who will lead out Ireland as captain for the 63rd time in a career that has quite simply moved him into legendary status as one of the greatest of all time.

"At the start you want to get as many caps as possible. Then your mindset changes as you want to win as many times as possible. At first, it is individual games. Then, you get selfish and it is about winning trophies.



adventure

"You never look and hope to attain 100. If it comes well and good -- I have thought for a number of years, the next game you play in a green shirt could be your last," he said.

"But, I'm not chopped liver just yet. I will play for as long as the body and mind is able and the coach feels I have something to offer," he added.

In terms of selection, Leicester Tiger Geordan Murphy has won the confidence of coach Declan Kidney to hold off the recovered Rob Kearney at full-back and Jonathan Sexton remains one step ahead of Ronan O'Gara at fly-half in what is an unchanged side from that which beat England 20-16 at Twickenham.

It should leave Ireland spot-on for what is always an interesting, to say the least, set-to with their Celtic cousins, based on the perceived intelligence of Ireland and the adventure of Wales as Kidney looks to secure a fifth Triple Crown in seven seasons.

Clearly, the once-coveted clean sweep of the British countries has lost some of its lustre as Ireland have moved onwards and upwards in the standards set within the squad and expected outside it.

Welsh sensation Jamie Roberts certainly concurs with O'Driscoll's self-assessment. This dynamic duo terrorised South African defences on last year's British & Irish Lions tour.

"We clicked pretty well on the tour. It is hard to put a finger on why, but it happens. Brian was an inspiration to us younger guys. He has been one of the top centres in the world over the last decade," Roberts stated.

"I learned a hell of a lot from playing with someone of Brian's experience. One of the main things I also learned from him was how effective he was at communicating. I have never played with somebody who talks so much on the pitch," said Roberts.

Communication has never been a problem for Wales coach Warren Gatland, whose incendiary comments can light up any Six Nations week. He kept his powder dry in announcing Martyn Williams as his temporary captain in the injured absence of Ryan Jones.

"Ireland are an impressive and experienced side with a pack of players who have been around for a long time. We meet them after a good win against England and a loss to France by a scoreline which probably flattered the French," he said.

"We know we need to improve but we do think we have the talent and ability in this squad to match any squad, and we're confident we are good enough to win this match if we can get things right on the day.

"This Ireland side will be meticulous in its planning and, for this game in particular, we need to get our preparation exactly right."

Gloucester number eight Gareth Delve is the man entrusted with Jones' jersey. British and Irish Lions hooker Mathew Rees replaces Huw Bennett and Luke Charteris retains his second row slot following his early introduction for the still injured Deiniol Jones to complete their set of three changes.

IRELAND: G Murphy; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

WALES: L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, R Rees; P James, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, L Charteris, J Thomas, M Williams (capt), G Delve.

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