DUBLIN, March 10 – Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll insisted he was "not done yet" although he admitted the "end line was in sight" as he approached winning his 100th cap for his country.The talented 31-year-old centre is set to complete his century of Ireland Test appearances against Wales in Saturday’s Six Nations international here at Croke Park.
That match will also see O’Driscoll, who made his Ireland debut back in 1999, leading out his country for the 63rd occasion.
The pivotal member of Ireland’s ‘golden generation’, it had seemed O’Driscoll’s career might not get its due reward in terms of team success.
But last year he led Ireland, unbeaten in 2010, to their first Grand Slam since 1948 while the season also saw him star for Leinster in the Irish province’s first European Cup-winning campaign.
O’Driscoll, whose defensive solidity has been as much a feature of his recent play as his attacking prowess, said last year’s successes, which saw him inspire Ireland almost as much by sheer will as skill, had helped reinvigorate his career.
"I’m really enjoying my rugby," said O’Driscoll here on Tuesday after Ireland coach Declan Kidney named an unchanged starting side to play Wales following a 20-16 win over England where prop John Hayes became the first player to win 100 Ireland caps.
"Last year was fantastic – it makes things a lot easier when you win something that you’ve been trying to win for many years.
"I do know there is an end line in sight so now it’s about trying to attain as much as possible in that time.
"When you win your first cap it’s such a huge honour, especially at such a young age. At the start you want as many as possible.
"For the last few years, every match I’ve played in a green jersey, I’ve approached it as though it was my last.
"You can’t go too far wrong with that attitude and I’m not done yet."
O’Driscoll, who scored a try in last season’s Six Nations clean-sweep clinching 17-15 win away to Wales, said: "I won’t forget the second half of the game in Cardiff last year, when we won the Grand Slam, in a hurry."
But it was his hat-trick of tries against France in 2000, during a 27-25 victory that saw Ireland win in Paris for the first time in 28 years, that first propelled O’Driscoll to international prominence.
Ireland have not triumphed in the French capital since and O’Driscoll said: "That match against France in Paris 10 years ago also stands out because it’s only in subsequent years that I’ve realised how big a triumph it was.
"Along the way I’ve been involved in some great occasions and experienced some great changing room atmospheres.
He added: "On the downside, in the early years we had a couple of bad defeats at Twickenham and I don’t have great memories from the 2007 World Cup.
"I’ve had my low days but over the course of my career, the highs have outweighed the lows," said O’Driscoll, three-times a series loser with the British and Irish Lions, notably in New Zealand in 2005 when, as captain, his tour was ended minutes into the first Test by a controversial tackle involving All Black skipper Tana Umaga.
O’Driscoll, who regards Australia great Tim Horan as his most dangerous opponent, first captained Ireland in November 2002 when they defeated the Wallabies 18-9 at Lansdowne Road.
In the process, O’Driscoll led Ireland to their first victory over Australia since 1979.
"It was a shock to get the captaincy – I was 23 years old and didn’t see it coming," he recalled. "You don’t now overlook an honour like that."