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20th May 2023

Brian O’Driscoll only played a supporting role in his favourite European Cup memory

Patrick McCarry

Brian O'Driscoll

“They weren’t lying… Tonight was going to be a good night!”

Brian O’Driscoll has ticked just about every box in club and Test rugby, and now provides his punditry expertise with a wealth of experience and silverware behind him.

We caught up with the former Leinster and Ireland captain ahead of the Champions Cup final and, during our chat, asked for his favourite European Cup memory. Interestingly enough, it was nothing connected with one of his many tries and superb performances when it was all on the line.

“Going back,” he told us, “it’s not a personal one. I think what Johnny Sexton did in 2011, you know, the way he spoke to the group. Talk is cheap, they say, but he then went out and scored 28 points. He scored two tries in the second half, kicked everything and he properly led the side.

“That was inspiring and so to be a part of that. To watch someone delivering on their words the way he did was, yeah, a really great memory.”

Leinster were trailing 22-6 at half-time, against Northampton Saints, but Sexton delivered a legendary dressing room speech when he told his teammates that their seconf half comeback would become the stuff of legend.

“I remember being in a team huddle on the pitch afterwards and the Black Eyed Peas song – Tonight’s going to be a good night – was coming on. And us doing some dad dancing in the middle of the circle. That was a good night. They weren’t lying, those Black Eyed Peas. Tonight was going to be a good night!”

Brian O'DriscollJohnny Sexton celebrates with Leinster team-mates Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Jennings after scoring his and his side’s second try against Northampton Saints. (Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE)

Brian O’Driscoll on Leinster’s current squad ‘breaking the seal’

It took a decade of graft, and heartbreak, in Leinster blue before Brian O’Driscoll was able to celebrate a European Cup victory.

The former Leinster captain can emphatise, then, with some of the squad newcomers struggling to get over the Champions Cup hump.

“For me, it is when do you break the seal?” he mused. “That’s the big thing with this team. A lot of the guys that are playing haven’t won one. You know, you look back to 2018, there’s quite a few that weren’t part of that set-up. So a lot of the time it’s getting that first victory.

“You know, we had this huge pressure of failing in semi-finals in 2003 and 2006 and then getting it done in a semi-final in 2009 against Munster who were title holders. Then there is the comfort that comes with being a winner. It relaxes you, I think.

“Even though you’re not guaranteed anything, you look at Leinster, the quality they had in 2018 and then 2019 through to this year, they’ve been quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals and still not managed to it. So you do need a, you need a large slice of luck, as well – the breaking of the ball to go your way.

“For me, the relief that came with that first one against Leicester was just a massive weight off our shoulders – we finally managed to win one. Then you park that very quickly when you’ve had that success and you think, ‘Ok, what’s this team capable of doing?’

Leinster will have the edge, in terms of support at Aviva Stadium and home comforts associated with playing in Dublin, but O’Driscoll recognises there is a flip side to that coin.

“They’re going to be massive pressure,” O’Driscoll adds, “for them in Dublin, as much as we’re talking about Leinster’s comfort, playing at home, La Rochelle will be flipping that on it’s head and stressing how they are under pressure to deliver at home.

“What can we do to put a screw in their heads? The way they’ve played particularly that semi-final, against Exeter, you wouldn’t bet against them.”

Watch Leinster v La Rochelle from 4pm, Saturday 20th May live and exclusive on BT Sport 2.


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