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Gareth Thomas on BOD: Ireland are losing a great player. And a consummate gentleman

As Brian O'Driscoll plays his last game for Ireland in front of his home crowd, Wales legend, Gareth Thomas pays tribute to one of the game's greats

by Gareth Thomas | March 7, 2014

Quite simply, Brian O’Driscoll is one of the greats.

There’s not many players you can say can could play in the back line, but also in the back row. He rivals top class loose forwards for his ability on the ground and at the breakdown and combined with his attacking threat, skill, creativity and defence, you’ve got the complete rugby player.

Added to the mix his leadership and work-rate and you can see why he deserves to be regarded as one of the greats, not just of Irish rugby, but of world rugby. He’s up there with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter as the best of his generation and of all time.

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There’s more to him than his rugby too. He’s a top guy too. He’s a consummate gentleman. I came out late to the Lions Tour in 2005 and he went home early when he got injured in the first Test, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I’d have liked. But what the time I did have, I enjoyed immensely.

Feet on the ground

He plays hard and he parties hard. He’s great fun to be around and he’s managed to maintain the best elements of amateur era camaraderie in the professional era. There was so much opportunity for him to develop an arrogance or a big head, but he’s avoided that and always kept his feet on the ground. I always speak as I find and with Brian, I’ve always found him to be a standout guy.

I’ve nothing but respect for him. To operate at such a high level for so long takes a mental toughness that’s hard to understand if you haven’t played professional sport. The have the 7,000 odds caps or whatever it is he has now takes a certain breed of person!

BOD The Brave

God, he was a tough opponent. His tackling is what I remember most from going up against him. He’s not the biggest guy, but he put absolutely everything into every tackle he made. He was so strong in the tackle. He put his body on the line every single time. And once he made the tackle, he was so strong in the contact area. He’d keep fighting for the ball the way you’d expect from a quality 6, 7 or 8. Most superstars like to hang out and look good, but Brian had the bravery and was willing to do the hard work. He’s just the perfect team player.

Now he’s got more time on his hands, I might even put a good word in for him with the producers of Dancing On Ice if they decide to bring it back!

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