As reported in the March edition of Rugby World, Brian O’Driscoll is within touching distance of yet another remarkable milestone – the Championship try-scoring record that has stood since 1933.
The Irish captain and try scoring machine took his RBS 6 Nations tournament tally to 23 with Ireland’s only try in their 13-11 win over Italy in Rome last Saturday.
And while O’Driscoll’s Ireland host defending champions France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in Round 2 on Sunday, by sheer coincidence Scotland take on Wales at Murrayfield on the same weekend, 87 years after Ian Smith made a try hat-trick scoring Scottish debut in the same fixture and went on to score a Championship record 24 tries.
The ‘Flying Scotsman’ amassed his two dozen tries in just 31 appearances on the wing at the phenomenal strike rate of three tries every four Tests. Smith’s mark has withstood the test of time along with all challenges for the last 78 years, but O’Driscoll is now closing in and is just one try away from matching Smith’s mark, the Irishman scoring his 23 tries in 51 championship matches.
Smith, a key member of the great Oxford University three-quarter line, along with Phil Macpherson, George Aitken and Johnny Wallace, was the original Flying Scot
and a deadly finisher when given a merest sniff of the try line.
In the 1925 tournament he scored a Championship record equaling eight tries in just two matches – he crossed four times against France and then repeated the feat a
fortnight later against Wales.
Born in Melbourne in 1903, and brought up in New Zealand, Smith was educated at Winchester and qualified to play for Scotland through family connections in the Borders.
He was a main player in the ‘Immortals’ – the first Scottish side to win the Grand Slam in 1925 – and although in the deciding match with England, Smith was marked
out of the contest he went on to gain his revenge by scoring nine tries in eight subsequent matches against England.
Smith was selected for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1924 – the first tour after the end of the First World War – and in 1933 he captained the Scotland side who won the Triple Crown in Dublin, eventually defeating the Irish 8-6 after the first match was cancelled amid ferocious blizzards. It was Smith’s last international and a fitting end to an exceptional rugby career.
But now O’Driscoll is the player in the spotlight and the 32-year-old midfield maestro’s glittering career simply goes on and on.
Now that 78-year-old Championship record is under real threat from the former British & Irish Lions captain who opened his Championship try scoring account against Scotland 11 years ago and has scored more of his tournament tries against France than against any of the other competing nations.