Coach hails end of an era

Joe Schmidt praised Brian O'Driscoll, who produced another excellent performance during his final international in Dublin where Ireland trounced Italy 46-7.

O'Driscoll, who makes his final Six Nations appearance in Paris next weekend, played a major role in three of Ireland's seven tries.

It was a glorious farewell for the 35-year-old centre, who is hoping to end his Ireland career by clinching this season's title with a victory over France.

Ireland's Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt said: "I think it was an incredibly special day, he made it special because he had a hand in three tires.

"His ability to get into space, and get the right pass away at the right time, even if he creates a pass that's probably not out of the textbook.

"He's an incredibly creative man, he's courageous and he's got a bit of class about him.

"In the days of the big direct running, he might be the final bastion along with Gordon (D'Arcy) for the smaller centre who is a creator of play rather than a direct runner.

"I thought the crowd were phenomenal. I guess it's partly he wanted to acknowledge the support he's had, and the crowd gave that back in return.

"I didn't see anyone leave after the final whistle, it was fantastic."