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With O'Driscoll 'we could win any game' | Keith Wood on touring New Zealand

The arrival of Brian O'Driscoll made then-Irish captain Keith Wood believe that they could win any match, even while on tour of New Zealand.


With O'Driscoll 'we could win any game' | Keith Wood on touring New Zealand

The arrival of Brian O'Driscoll made then-Irish captain Keith Wood believe that they could win any match, even while on tour of New Zealand.

Andy Farrell's side embarked on their three test tour of New Zealand this week, with their first game coming against the Māori All Blacks on Wednesday, June 29th.

It is the start of the four-week Lions-esque tour of the All Blacks' home turf. In spite of Ireland having the edge of new Zealand in recent meetings, the tourists are still in search of their first win on New Zealand soil.

There are a number of young faces in Farrell's squad, however few will have the impact that a young Brian O'Driscoll had on the 2002 tour, according to Wood.

With O'Driscoll 'we had an opportunity to win any game'

Speaking on Off The Ball on Thursday, the former Ireland captain revealed just what the future Irish and Lions legend was like when he first burst onto the scene.

"In my career, [the mindset of winning] changed when Brian O'Driscoll came on the scene," Wood said. "I thought we had an opportunity to win any game, even if we weren't playing well, because he could magic up something.

"He was fully professional. He never worked. He'd been a student, but it was a student for him to go and play rugby. He was a rugby player through and through. A lot of us had worked prior to that.

"He had a standard that was different to what we had. We were trying to get to a standard of professionalism at the end of our career.

"He was a young kid who wasn't cocky. He really wasn't cocky. He was extraordinarily comfortable and confident in himself and his abilities. I think it rubbed off on an awful lot of players."

While New Zealand went on to win the series 2-0, O'Driscoll's actions lead to Ireland coming very close to winning the first of the two tests.

Giving Ronan O'Gara kicking lessons

One of the endearing memories of that 2002 tour of New Zealand was Wood's monster kick in the first test in Dunedin. It was made even more impressive given that Ronan O'Gara, the legendary outhalf, was having major issues with the yellow ball used on the tour.

"How many hookers would be allowed to do it?" Wood joked. "That was a hoof of a ball! On the New Zealand lineouts I used to defend outside ROG.

"So, if they put a hefty guy going up that channel, I'd try and get in and do it. I don't know who it was, but somebody just snaffled the lineout and [Peter] stringer just flung to me.

"Rather than give it to ROG, I hoofed it!"

Although O'Gara revealed on OTB AM this week that he was not making any excuses for his poor performance with the boot on that tour, Wood revealed just how odd the ball in question was.

"It was a funny one," Wood said. "Andrew Mehrtens called it a pig. It was a yellow Adidas ball, and it was a horrible ball. It was kind of an unusual shape, and it had a strange trajectory.

"ROG had a shocker with it. He hated kicking it and I think it got into his head. He hated kicking it off the tee and he hated kicking it out of hand.

"That was an agricultural hoof. It would have been a 50-22! I overheard Declan Kidney trying to explain to ROG, 'The way Woody kicks it is...', and ROG didn't take that very well.

"The problem was, ROG could stroke the ball. He was a fantastic kicker of the ball. It just didn't take that. It wanted a big old agricultural, size 11 hoof."

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