Following fast in the footsteps of last season’s winner, Keith Wood, Ireland’s outstanding center, Brian O’Driscoll, has been voted Player of the Year by the IRB.
O’Driscoll, who also replaced the injured Wood as Irish captain this season, was presented with the world award in a ceremony in London. The 24-year-old beat off competition from four other international nominations — French scrumhalf Fabien Galthie, All Black flanker Richard McCaw, South African back row Joe van Niekerk, and English rugby league convert and current full back Jason Robinson.
O’Driscoll has had immense pressure thrust upon his shoulders this year and has dealt with it with convincing maturity.
The Leinster center found himself a closely marked outside center in 2002, following his match-winning performance for Ireland against France in Paris in 2000 and his eye-catching try for the Lions in the first Test against Australia in 2001. Three tries against Scotland in the Six Nations Championship proved, however, that he remains a constant thorn in the side of opposing international defences.
Although his attacking abilities were cited in the presentation ceremony, he has also been seen as an outstanding figure in defense for the Irish team. And during Ireland’s series of autumn international matches this season at Lansdowne Road, he added another string to his bow by leading the side against Australia in their historic victory, suggesting that the Blackrock College player’s skills are not limited to the sublime break from centre but incorporate leadership qualities as well.
O’Driscoll’s first match as captain was against Australia at Lansdowne Road and there he played an all-round captain’s role. But his international currency has been as a match breaker, a player with the vision, speed and balance to find space where none apparently exists.