Brian O’Driscoll is free to play once again from today and he admits he still has one final act to play out in his remarkable career – winning a Test series with the British & Irish Lions.
And by the end of this month the 131 times capped centre, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, will learn if he is to get his last chance by being selected for a fourth Lions tour this summer.
O’Driscoll’s three-week ban for stamping during the final round of RBS 6 Nations matches in Italy forced him to sit out last weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final with Leinster, but he has an Irish inter-pro derby match against Munster to focus on this weekend before a European semi-final clash with Biarritz Olympique to look forward to at the end of April.
Hong Kong and Australia also beckon for the 34-year-old Leinster and Ireland star, but even after14 years at the top of the world game he knows to take nothing for granted.
“Playing for the Lions is the ultimate in your career, such a massive honour. You only have to look at the quality of some of the players who have never been on a Lions tour to realise that,” said O’Driscoll.
“Playing in that calibre of team, and training day in, day out with that level of player, brings out the best in you. It’s hugely exciting.
“I would love to be a part of a Lions team capable of winning a Test series and I think the team being put together by Warren Gatland is definitely capable of doing that in Australia. It’s not a question of me having some unfinished business after 2001 – I just want to play in a winning Lions team.
“You can’t really allow yourself to think too much about Lions selection in April. It is a serious time of the season for a lot of players and certain players will be hopeful of getting selected. But you just have to keep on trying to improve and make a few more headaches for the coaches.
“It is the last chance to leave a lasting impression and I will be no different to any other player in that respect this month. You mustn’t over think it – just get on with what you do week in, week out.”
That means O’Driscoll has three more chances to underline his credentials for the tour – against Munster and Zebre in the RaboDirect PRO12 over the next two weekends and then the European semi-final in Dublin on Saturday, 27 April.
Two more titles beckon for the man who already has three Heineken Cup winners medal and three Celtic League titles under his belt with Leinster. Victories in the PRO12 and Amlin Challenge Cup finals would leave a series win with the Lions to complete a wonderful hat-trick to possibly round off his amazing career.
“Who knows what the final act will be in my career. I just have to play it out this season and see how things unfold. Then I’ll make a call after that,” he added.
“I’m not under any massive pressure to make a decision. I will see what happens over the next few months and take a look at things in July.”
Brian O'Driscoll is an HSBC ambassador. HSBC is proud Principal Partner to The 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia. For more information and to join the journey visit http://www.lionsrugby.com/jointhejourney