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16th Mar 2023

Brian O’Driscoll on press conference comment that enraged England team

Patrick McCarry

“It went down so badly!”

Brian O’Driscoll was Ireland captain for 83 of the 133 Test caps he won with his country. By the time he retired, in 2014, he was a dab hand at press conferences and dealing with the media.

That was not always the case.

Back in 2003, after getting a taste for the role in a 2002 home win over Australia, O’Driscoll took over from Keith Wood as Ireland captain. In one of his earlier press conferences, he managed to bring up a play of a Roy Keane comment that riled up England coach Clive Woodward and legendary No.8 Lawrence Dallaglio.

Brian O'DriscollIreland captain Brian O’Driscoll leads out his team at Twickenham, in March 2004. (Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile)

Brian O’Driscoll channelled his inner Roy Keane

In his first game as permanent Ireland captain, Brian O’Driscoll and his teammates fell to an electric French side, in Paris. They rebounded well to defeat Wales 36-15, with the captain scoring two tries.

Up next was a world champion England team that had defeated Italy and Scotland in their opening two games of the Six Nations. The home side were heavily backed for the Six Nations encounter, but Ireland and their captain fancied their chances.

Seeking to add brevity into pre-match proceedings, O’Driscoll told us he gave his spin on a Roy Keane quote that rubbed up several of the English camp the wrong way. He said:

“Very early on, in 2004, England had just won the World Cup and I was made captain on a full-time basis, after Keith Wood retiring. It was England’s first game back at Twickenham after winning the World Cup.

“I was trying to have a bit of a laugh in the press conference, during the week. There was something that Roy Keane had said about the prawn sandwich brigade (at Old Trafford). We were being asked about the fans, and silencing the crowd. And I said, ‘Ah yeah, hopefully we’ll give the prawn sandwich brigade something to choke on’.

“I was laughing in my own head, thinking it was a great gag. Oh gosh, it went down so badly!”

Brian O'Driscoll

Lawrence Dallaglio got his own back on Brian O’Driscoll

Needless to say, Test captains do not often dole out such brash lines, even if it was meant in jest.

Printed in black and white, it read very bullish from the young Ireland captain [Brian O’Driscoll was 25 at the time]. O’Driscoll recalled:

“Clive Woodward had a big bite back, the next day, and said something like, ‘People should learn to keep their mouth shut’.

“And then Lawrence had a few choice words, in the first five minutes of the game, at the bottom of a ruck, as well. When I say words, it was more actions than words!

At the very least, O’Driscoll and his teammates backed up those pre-match words by defeating England 19-13 at Twickenham, with Girvan Dempsey’s second half try a crucial score.

“So,” O’Driscoll mused, “I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, don’t try the wisecracks and maybe the straight bat is the better option, from now on.’

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