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Dublin bids emotional farewell to local legend O’Driscoll

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Dublin's Aviva Stadium bade an emotional farewell to local hero Brian O'Driscoll on Saturday as the man widely regarded as Ireland's greatest-ever player became the game's most capped international in his final home appearance.

The 35-year old centre did not add to his tally of 46 tries in Ireland's 46-7 demolition of Italy, but decisive passes in three of the seven tries was enough to win him man of the match and three standing ovations from an ecstatic crowd.

The crowd roared every time the Leinster man touched the ball or appeared on screen, chanting "one more year" as they refused to accept this was his final home appearance in the green jersey.

"I couldn't have asked for a better close to playing at home in an Irish jersey," O'Driscoll said in a TV interview.

"It's kind of hard to take it all in. It was very, very special."

O'Driscoll's 140th match for Ireland, one more than George Gregan played for Australia, made him the international game's most capped player.

"He wanted to acknowledge the support he's had for the past 14 years with the way he played today and I think the crowd acknowledged him in return," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who described O'Driscoll as "the magician."

The win gave O'Driscoll one last chance for glory, knowing that victory over France in Paris next week will almost guarantee him his second Six Nations title due to Ireland's vastly superior points difference.

"We realise the size of the challenge, but I feel we have the capability of winning there," O'Driscoll said of the French game.

"We just have to get ourselves up for one massive performance."

Huge posters paying tribute to the centre known to his legions of fans simply as "BOD" dotted the city as the country's best selling paper placed him next to the country's founders and Pope John Paul II in a collage of icons of Irish people.

The tag '#thirteen' dominated twitter in Ireland on Saturday as people recounted their favourite memories of his career.

"I think it's more emotional for the crowd that it is for him," said Irish fan Ciaran O'Dwyer. "I feel sorry for whoever wears the No. 13 jersey next year."

A Gaelic footballer in his youth, O'Driscoll won his first cap on Ireland's tour of Australia in 1999 as a raw 20-year-old.

He came to international prominence when he used his searing pace to destructive effect against France in 2000, scoring a hat-trick of tries to give Ireland their first win over the French in Paris since 1972.

They have not won there since.

After replacing the hugely popular Keith Wood as national captain following the 2003 World Cup, O'Driscoll led Ireland to four triple crowns culminating in their first grand slam in 60 years in 2009.

Winning a second Six Nations title in Paris next week would ease the pain of twice narrowly missing out on beating the All Blacks and sitting out the British & Irish Lions series decider against Australia last year.

The Irish fans appeared to have little doubt he has one more win in him.

"In BOD we trust," was the message on a huge banner draped across two houses around the corner from the stadium.

Reuters

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