Friday, March 12, 2010

Wales rugby coach salutes O'Driscoll landmark – Six Nations Rugby

Wales coach Warren Gatland knows better than most the qualities that will have taken Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll to a century of caps for his country when the two sides meet in the Six Nations rugby at Croke Park on Saturday.

"I gave him his first cap, and it was an honour for me to be involved with him with the Lions last year to see how he has developed," Gatland said on Wednesday. "I was incredibly impressed with his leadership and his understanding of the game.
"He was one of the main reasons Jamie Roberts ended up having such a good tour.
"He deserves all the accolades, and I will be one of the first to stand up in the coaching box on Saturday and clap him," Gatland, whose time in charge of the two Celtic nations was separated by a successful spell as coach of English giants Wasps.
"I am absolutely delighted for him and proud I have had an association with him," Gatland added.
O'Driscoll, who a match after prop John Hayes became the first player to win 100 Ireland caps, becomes only the 13th player in rugby union history to notch up a hundred Tests' worth of national service, has enjoyed a glittering career.
The Leinster legend has captained Ireland on 63 occasions and last year led his country to their first Grand Slam since 1948 while winning the European Cup with his provincial side.
But the match that made world rugby sit-up and take notice of his singular talent was in 2000 when O'Driscoll, just two months after his 21st birthday, scored a hat-trick of tries against a France side featuring Emile Ntamack and Abdel Benazzi as Ireland enjoyed a rare victory in Paris.
"That is my greatest memory of Brian - the hat-trick of tries he scored when Ireland beat France in Paris for the first time in 27 years," said Gatland, whose opinion was soon endorsed by one of rugby union's most gifted centres.
"I remember the French great Philippe Sella coming into the changing room to congratulate him afterwards and saying it was one of the most impressive centre performances he had ever seen."
And Wales flanker Martyn Williams, the visiting captain this weekend in place of the injured Ryan Jones, said the passing of the years had done little to dim fellow Lion O'Driscoll's ability.
"Brian is without doubt the best player in the northern hemisphere over the last decade, and probably one of the greatest ever," said Williams. "For me, there is nothing he can't do.
"A lot of players maybe are really good defenders and have great passing skills, but he's got the complete package.

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