With tries in his two preceding internationals against Scotland and Italy, Brian O’Driscoll was beginning to make a reputation for himself as Ireland headed to the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris looking to continue their revival from a record 50-18 defeat to England with a third consecutive victory in the inaugural Six Nations.
Ireland had not beaten France in Paris for 28 years and few imagined that run would come to an end at the start of the Millennium, despite the presence of exciting young talent such as the 20-year-old Dubliner.
What they had not reckoned on, though, was one of the best individual performances ever seen from a relative test rookie.
O’Driscoll was 10 matches into his senior international career by the time he carved open Les Bleus and had played one match at the previous year’s Rugby World Cup, against Argentina in Lens, but the Leinster man’s hat-trick in a stunning 27-25 win is seen as the moment he properly announced his arrival on the international stage.
Lining up alongside the bludgeoning Rob Henderson – the perfect foil to his rapier-like qualities – O’Driscoll tormented the hosts all afternoon.
“Brian was on fire that day,” Henderson, later recalled.
Keith Wood, his captain that day and the talisman of the Irish team before O’Driscoll, added: "The change from Five Nations to Six Nations needed something special to happen, and that thing was Brian O'Driscoll in Paris.”
O’Driscoll’s game-clinching hat-trick try came with a few minutes left on the clock and was an example of the pace and footwork that terrorised defences for years to come.
As his career advanced, O’Driscoll’s ability over the ball in defence, a skill previously left to back-row players, became equally valued.
In March 2014, 14 years on – almost to the day – from his seminal match, O’Driscoll signed off his stellar test career on the same foreign field where he first alerted rugby followers what was to come.
This time there was no hat-trick in Paris, but to complete the circle, Ireland did win by a couple of points to give one of their most celebrated players a fitting farewell.
Two years after retiring with 141 international caps to his name, O'Driscoll was inducted into World Rugby's Hall of Fame.
For more information on the World Rugby Hall of Fame, visit www.world.rugby/halloffame.