The Western Mail on BOD

If Warren Gatland was disappointed with Wales’ latest defeat, he would have been buoyed by the supercharged performance of Ireland talisman Brian O’Driscoll.

Gatland, in his capacity as Lions coach, watched down from the Millennium Stadium stand on Saturday, some Welsh supporters no doubt miffed that he couldn’t play any direct part in preparing the national team.

The Kiwi would no doubt have had inner frustrations at what he witnessed, but those will have been tempered by the knowledge that 34-year-old O’Driscoll clearly has enough left in the tank to be a major force for the Lions in Australia this summer.

In fact, on the evidence of this weekend, his name is probably pencilled in already.

O’Driscoll was at his compelling best as he picked up the man of the match award following a 30-22 triumph, his fifth in seven outings for Ireland in Cardiff.

Not only did the great centre pounce from close-range for his 47th try in international rugby, he created another with an arcing run which made a two on two into a two on one to send left-wing Simon Zebo over and passed crisply throughout.

He was also a defensive rock, won turnovers at the breakdown, even had a spell at scrum-half after Conor Murray was sin-binned and exerted calm authority.

O’Driscoll might have lost the Ireland captaincy to No.8 Jamie Heaslip after injury-enforced absences which had restricted him to just 18 matches since they lost to Wales in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, but his inspirational and astute direction was apparent as he intervened on occasions in the decision-making process.

“Whether I am captain or not, it doesn’t affect me – I just play my game the same way,” he said afterwards.

“If I can help Jamie out I will but leadership isn’t about what you see, it’s what you do on the field.

“I still see myself as a leader in the team. I don’t think you play any differently whether you are captain or not.”

O’Driscoll might have been making his 127th Test appearance – 121 for Ireland and six for the Lions – but his unquenchable thirst for success and burning desire makes him a certainty, barring any more injury mishaps, for Gatland’s squad that heads Down Under at the end of May.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies was rated a potential rival for the Lions No.13 jersey against the Wallabies but, quite frankly, the master taught him a rugby lesson.

And O’Driscoll did it on just the back of two starts for Leinster and an appearance off the bench since undergoing the ankle surgery last October which forced him to miss the autumn internationals.

It was astonishing stuff during what’s expected to have been his final appearance at the Millennium Stadium in the green jersey of Ireland.

But it can’t be considered a surprise because the Dubliner is one of the best union players of all-time.

“I’m trying to be fit and getting as close to 100% as I can. I felt good and, if you keep starting games, there’s every chance of putting in a performance,” said O’Driscoll.

“I feel things went well, I got a try and we got off to a winning start in the Six Nations.

“You don’t win the championship on the opening weekend but you can lose it. The first game is a must-win, it’s as simple as that.

“If you don’t win it, you are chasing your tail for the rest of the championship. We started really well but we need to build on it next week against England in Dublin.”

It was Ireland’s first win over Wales in four outings with O’Driscoll adding: “They had done a job on us the last three times.

“This time we came out of the blocks in the first half and played really well. We weren’t great in the second but I thought our defence was dogged.

“Anyone is capable of beating anyone in the Six Nations – that’s why it’s such a great tournament.

“We knew Wales weren’t going to be flat for the whole game and they put it up to us in the second half.

“They were able to kick to the corners and build. They tied us down and got on the front foot. It was a bit closer than we wanted because we had a 27-point lead at one stage.

“When you look at the way we defended in the second half under sustained periods of pressure we have to be pleased.”

At the start of the second half, O’Driscoll picked up at the base of a ruck, spotted a gaping hold in the Welsh defence and flopped over for one of the easiest tries of an international career that stretches back to June 1999 and his debut against Australia in Brisbane.

“It’s easier to score from half a yard than 25 yards,” he said, before quipping: “They’re the ones I like these days!”