For a player among the greatest centers in rugby history after captaining a Grand Slam-winning team and setting numerous national and Six Nations records, Brian O'Driscoll's career has not been without its disappointments.
Leading try-scorer for Ireland (44) and in the Six Nations (25), most Test caps for his country (113), voted player of the Six Nations in 2006, '07 and '09 - the last year during which he helped to end a 61-year Irish wait for the Grand Slam - plus a three-time IRB nominee as the world's best player.
Factor in two European Cup titles with Leinster and it's hard at first sight to identify too many flaws in O'Driscoll's credentials. However, even some of his other notable achievements have been tinged with regret.
Consecutive British and Irish Lions tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all ended in Test series defeats. Worst of all, his captaincy in 2005 ended in the opening minutes of the first match against the All Blacks after dislocating his shoulder in an horrendous two-man spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.
Then there is Ireland's record at the World Cup in O'Driscoll's three previous appearances - losing a quarterfinal playoff to Argentina in 1999, comfortably beaten in the last eight by France in 2003, and the ignominy of only just beating Georgia and Namibia to exit at the pool stage in 2007.
The 32-year-old O'Driscoll has lost the searing pace displayed by his remarkable solo try for the Lions against Australia in 2001, but the low-slung running style and swerve remain and his already preternatural calmness under pressure and decision-making have gone up another level.
O'Driscoll returned from a neck and shoulder injury against France on Aug. 20 as Ireland recorded its third loss from three warm-up matches a little more than three weeks before the team opens its World Cup campaign in New Zealand against the United States.
"At training, you can try and be as intense as possible, but it's training - you cannot mirror playing games," O'Driscoll said. "What you need is to play at that level and that intensity, so when you do get hit, you deal with those hits. It takes a little bit out of the legs. You might be carrying a knock, you have to deal with that. Then, it is trying to push yourself forward and through that. That only comes by playing more and more games."
Close losses in away warm-up matches at Scotland and France showed enough promising signs that this team was on track to possibly become Ireland's first to progress beyond the quarterfinal stage at the World Cup.
Conceding 26 unanswered points to France in front of a partisan home crowd and then losing to England in Dublin for the first time since 2003, however, have even O'Driscoll concerned about the team's form.
"We showed what we're capable of but in very small blasts," he said. "If we're trying to do something at the World Cup, we're going to have to be a team that's capable of doing that for 70-80 minutes - and we're going to have to learn pretty quickly to do that."
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