O'Driscoll should stick to his Irish roots, says O'Sullivan

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As Brian O'Driscoll prepares to win his 50th cap for Ireland on Saturday, his coach Eddie O'Sullivan yesterday pleaded with the outstanding centre not to leave his homeland.

As Brian O'Driscoll prepares to win his 50th cap for Ireland on Saturday, his coach Eddie O'Sullivan yesterday pleaded with the outstanding centre not to leave his homeland.

O'Driscoll's contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union expires in the summer and English and French clubs are queueing up to lure away one of the northern hemisphere's most exciting talents. The 25-year-old says he will not give his future any thought until after the final Six Nations match with Scotland this weekend, when O'Driscoll could become only the seventh man to lead Ireland to the Triple Crown.

"The life of a rugby player in Ireland is a good one," O'Sullivan said. "They may make more money overseas but their careers are likely to be shorter because of the demands that are being made on them. Brian wants to stay in Ireland. It's not a bad place to live and it is where his friends and family are. He is a high-profile person in a very small place, which can create its own problems, but Brian knows he will be cared for in the system here and that will colour his thinking greatly."

O'Driscoll announced his arrival on the international stage with a hat-trick against France four years ago. Since then, the Leinster centre has established himself as the most lethal broken-field runner in the modern game. "He has played in two World Cups, been on a Lions tour, has become captain of his country and is on the brink of winning his 50th cap," O'Sullivan said. "At such a young age that is one hell of an achievement, but for Brian it is not really a big surprise.

"I don't think he will be happy until he has gone a lot further. He is without doubt one of the finest players Ireland have ever produced and he if he can get to the 100-cap mark he will."

If O'Driscoll did hit the century mark, it would eclipse the national team record of 69, currently held by Mike Gibson, and should he continue at his present average of a try every two games, the Dubliner would extend his own try-scoring record of 24 to almost unbreakable proportions.

Yet despite all the adulation, he remains refreshingly laid back and unaffected by his fame. Even the irritation of having his latest haircut dissected, Beckham-style, has given way to amused indifference.

"I get a kick out of some people getting really worked up about the length of my hair," he said. "How can they get so revved up about someone else's hair? Why don't they just get a life?"

But O'Driscoll admitted: "Milestones do mean a lot to me. It is a big honour to play 50 times for your country as I'm sure anyone who has gone before me will testify. Once you reach a target like that you want to play as many times as you can. Now we have moved into a very selfish phase where we don't just want caps, we want to win them by being part of a successful side.

"The 50th cap has come a lot quicker than I could have anticipated. In some senses, it feels as though I have played a full career already because of the pounding my body has taken. The careers of international players are getting shorter and if my international lifespan extended to 10 years I would be very happy indeed."

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