Rugby: Six Nations could be O'Driscoll's last

Brian O'Driscoll has played 120 tests for Ireland. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Brian O'Driscoll has played 120 tests for Ireland. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Ireland great Brian O'Driscoll has revealed this Six Nations championship could be the last time he appears in European rugby union's premier international tournament.

The 34-year-old centre missed Ireland's 2012 end-of-year fixtures due to an ankle injury but has been restored to the side for the Six Nations opener away to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

However, O'Driscoll - captain in 84 of his 120 Ireland Tests - finds himself back amongst the ranks after Ireland coach Declan Kidney again entrusted leadership duties to Jamie Heaslip, his skipper in November.

Kidney has insisted his decision could help prolong O'Driscoll's international career but the veteran midfielder's Irish Rugby Football Union contract expires at the end of the season.

"There's a strong possibility it could be my last," O'Driscoll told BBC Sport on Thursday.

"There's every chance it's my last Six Nations, but I haven't really allowed myself to start thinking about finishing. If you start thinking about it too early, you've one foot into retirement already.

"I'm contracted until the summer and I'll see how my body feels."

If O'Driscoll comes through the Six Nations unscathed, he could be contention for a place in the British and Irish Lions squad for their series in Australia later this year which, if selected, would be the Irishman's fourth tour with the combined side.

O'Driscoll was the Lions captain in New Zealand in 2005 although he played less than a minute of the first Test after a spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu led to a shoulder injury that ruled him out of the remainder of the series.

"It would be an honour that would be too big to pass up again. I got to do it once, albeit for only 25 seconds of a Test match, so it would be nice to get another opportunity," said O'Driscoll of another stint as Lions captain.

"But first I've got to get into a position to get myself on the tour and deserve my spot."

Andrew Coombs is set to make his Wales debut when they begin the defence of their Six Nations title at home to Ireland on Saturday.

Coombs, 28, was named in the starting XV announced on Thursday by interim head coach Rob Howley, after a second-row injury crisis left Wales without several experienced locks.

Newport Gwent Dragons forward Coombs has been a full-time professional for fewer than three years and only recently switched from back-row to lock.

However, Howley was confident the former computer software salesman would acquit himself well against Ireland.

"It's a great opportunity for Andrew, who has been performing well at regional level, to show what he can do on this stage," Howley said.

"The Six Nations is all about momentum, and we know we have to hit the ground running against Ireland."

- AFP

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