HE’S back. Well, maybe not quite yet. Worryingly, captain Brian O’Driscoll conceded he is "unlikely" to play for Ireland against France in Bordeaux on Saturday due to an ongoing injury he has not been able to shake off entirely.
It is not serious, just serious enough to hamper his game preparation. “The thing about it is I was carrying it a bit towards the end of last season. There was no point in shouting about it from the rooftops. You get targeted then,” he said.
“It has been an ongoing thing. It is no great issue. It is just something that can do with a bit more rehab. I have to make sure it is as strong as it possibly can be before I play games. “If there was a must-need game to be played last weekend, I could have done that. It is just a case of being smart. You would probably have to think that maybe another week’s rehab would be beneficial.”
The return leg against France at The Aviva Stadium on Saturday week is being pencilled in as his likely start to the season. The collaborative decision will be made between the medical staff, conditioning coaches, O’Driscoll and, ultimately, head coach Declan Kidney. The Irish record cap holder is keen to stay in the moment as his fourth World Cup looms slowly, surely into sight. Lens in 1999, Australia in 2003 and France in 2007 have been pushed into the bin of bad memories.
Ireland have racked up a Grand Slam and four Triple Crowns in a glorious period since 2004. It has set in motion a change in attitude. “The mentality is that we feel if we can play to our ability that we are a match for anyone in the world,” he stated. However, the hype of four years ago is a distant, dastardly memory as Ireland prepare to make a journey back to where their 2007 World Cup started to unravel – Bordeaux. Gone is the chest-beating bluster. Gone is the promise of a semi-final. Gone is the boast of being the best. Namibia, Georgia, France and Argentina rammed home a truth or two. “It was probably a very un-Irish thing that we did four years ago,” said O’Driscoll.
“We probably fell into the trap of doing something that is innately not an Irish attribute of talking ourselves up. You are better off plugging along and worrying about the now as opposed to what is going to happen in four or six weeks’ time. “You don’t have any bearing over that at the minute, whereas you do have bearing over the next time you go out onto the pitch and the session you are going to do. “We’ve been very quiet. We haven’t done too many interviews for the seven weeks of pre-season. You are able to solely focus on the job of getting into the best possible shape.” For now, O’Driscoll focuses on the present rather than the future: “I am a big believer in taking positives out of games. There were huge positives to take from that, namely the defence,” he reflected from last weekend’s 10-6 defeat to Scotland.
“Also, there were great run outs for guys that haven’t had any rugby, like Fla’ (Jerry Flannery) getting 20 minutes, Kearns (Robert Kearney) the full 80, Tomas (O’Leary) being back in and playing 60-65 (minutes), Felix (Jones), Mike McCarthy doing extremely well. “Ideally, you want to win these games. It becomes a habit. You learn how to close out games that bit more. The first couple of games are about guys getting game time and trying to get match fitness. That is important. “Let’s hope this weekend we can up our performance, particularly from an attacking point of view and cause some serious problems for the French.” It is just a pity he will probably not be there.