Brian O’Driscoll bade an emotional but victorious farewell to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday as Ireland kept their RBS Six Nations title hopes alive with a crushing 46-7 win over Italy.
The 35-year-old marked his world-record 140th Test cap by deftly setting up tries for Johnny Sexton and Andrew Trimble, teeing up the Irish for a title-decider in France next weekend.
Cian Healy, Sexton, Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath scored further tries in a one-sided contest, but the occasion was all about O’Driscoll, who was substituted after 61 minutes to a rousing standing ovation.
And the centre fought back the tears as he admitted he was still getting used to the prospect of retirement.
“I haven’t let myself think about. It’s emotional,” O’Driscoll said.
“It’s been a huge part of my whole adult life and to leave here it’s going to be hard. But good way to leave it today and hopefully we set ourselves up for next week.
“I feel humbled by the reaction. It seems a bit of a joke that you get man of the match for 60 minutes, but I’ve loved my time playing in this jersey. It had to come to an end at some stage and I’m glad I’m able to go out at home with a big win.
“It will only properly set in when I’ve had a bit of time.”
O’Driscoll is now hoping to end his Ireland career by lifting the Six Nations trophy in Paris on Saturday.
He said: “Hopefully next week there’s a performance and a championship in this team. We have to go to France with huge positivity.
“It’s one thing playing in this jersey but it’s another thing altogether winning in this jersey, and we’ve built a good standard. We’re capable of doing great things and we have to start next week by trying to win a second championship as this unit of players.”