Brian O'Driscoll will miss tomorrow night's Amlin Cup final having failed to recover from a back injury but Ireland's talismanic centre is far from finished. O'Driscoll signed a new one-year deal to play on for Leinster and his country after this summer's fourth tour with the British and Irish Lions.
O'Driscoll collected his 125th cap in Ireland's closing Six Nations defeat in Rome. It was thought by many to have been his farewell outing – with his last significant act in a green shirt being sent to the sin-bin. But Joe Schmidt's elevation from coaching Leinster, who take on Stade Français in Dublin, to the Ireland post is believed to have helped persuade him to play on.
The 34-year-old, who made his Ireland debut last century, had promised a decision by July once his Lions duties were done. Instead he has settled his future before joining up with the Lions following next weekend's RaboDirect Pro 12 final against Ulster. The esteem in which he is still held was summed up by Jamie Roberts, his fellow Lions centre in South Africa four years ago and probable partner in Australia this summer, who described the four centres selected by Warren Gatland as the "father and his three disciples".
It is a fillip for Schmidt who takes over the Ireland job after their worst Six Nations in 14 years – an opening game victory in Wales was followed by defeats to Scotland and Italy. "It's great that Brian has agreed to continue playing. He's an inspirational player, not only on the pitch, but also on the training ground," said Schmidt.
O'Driscoll missed the first Lions get together in London on Monday to remain in Dublin for treatment on a troublesome back and has not recovered in time for tonight's game. Leinster remain hopeful he will play against Ulster. Lions coach Gatland, who wants every player to be fit when they step on the plane to Hong Kong on 27 May, will be a concerned observer of O'Driscoll's progress, as he will of tonight's match which features five other Lions; Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip start while Cian Healy is on the bench.
The Lions are based in Dublin from Monday for a training week.