Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning captain Brian O’Driscoll has named Jonny Wilkinson as his best ever opponent as Ireland prepare to face England in the Guinness Six Nations on Sunday.
Scorer of the dramatic winning drop goal in England’s 2003 World Cup final triumph over Australia, Wilkinson was capped 91 times for his country, scoring 1,179 points.
And O’Driscoll, who played with him for The British & Irish Lions and works alongside him as an ITV pundit, says his meticulous approach is what made him such a brilliant player.
“Even to just get a snapshot of what his mind works like now and how he thinks about things is pretty eye-opening as to what sort of detail he went into as a player,” he said at the Laureus Sports Awards.
“He’s an out-and-out perfectionist, he just needs that 10 out of 10. I don’t think you ever achieve it and I think he beats himself up about it, but he got pretty close to 10 a lot of times.”
O’Driscoll, who lead Ireland to the 2009 Grand Slam – their first since 1948 – also spoke about the unique power of sport to unite people.
“For me, there’s really two things which really unite people as a collective – music and sport. That’s why they play music before sport, isn’t it? To get everyone into the groove,” he added.
“Sport has this ability to give people life skills. In a team environment, you have all the values that will serve you well in life – respect, communication, camaraderie and friendship.
“I think there’s such a unifying aspect to it, people have differing opinions, but I think we pull together and unite towards a love for sport.
“Sport has a unifying aspect that we can all get behind and all support as one, and I think that’s a special and powerful thing.”
Ireland have won both of their games in the 2020 Championship, seeing off Scotland in Round 1 before securing a bonus point in a handsome victory against Wales.
This week marks their first away game and O’Driscoll says they are still a work in progress under new head coach Andy Farrell.
“There’s been huge improvements in two weeks together and people were probably expecting a bit too much, but the game against Wales was another couple of steps down the line to where this team wants to go in their evolution,” he said.
“The game on Sunday against England will be an even bigger challenge than what they’ve seen so far – that’s a barometer as to whether they are going in the right direction.”