Friday 23 March 2018

O'Driscoll's ready for Boks locks

Mick O'Driscoll is unfazed by the challenge of containing the most feared second row partnership in Test rugby at Aviva Stadium tomorrow.

O'Driscoll has been rewarded for his success in retaining his place in Ireland's starting line-up with a duel against Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

The South Africa pair will extend their world record number of Tests as a starting lock combination to 57 and have amassed 169 caps between them.

Both have a crucial role to play in a South Africa side ravaged by injury but O'Driscoll, who packs down alongside Donncha O'Callaghan, insists Ireland are ready.

"We have to perform to the best of our ability and hope that will be good enough because they're a great combination," he said.

"Together they have everything you'd look for in a second row.

"They've been together for a long time and are both very good players playing in a good team.

"It'll be a tough assignment but we feel we can take it on."

Matfield is viewed as the game's outstanding player in the position and tomorrow will join Percy Montgomery and John Smit as the most capped Springbok with 102 Test appearances.

The 33-year-old is a brilliant line-out operator, while the bigger and more combative Botha often acts as an enforcer and is no stranger to disciplinary hearings.

O'Driscoll believes their different attributes dovetail perfectly.

"Technically you need one second row who is quite light and good in the air. Then you need one who is bulkier, more of a workhorse," he said.

"One guy will be more of a technical lineout player while one will do more of the hard work like mauling.

"But both players need to be able to do a bit of everything.

"Personally, I like line-outs and line-out organisation. I've always done it and find it pleasing when it goes right.

"The downside is that when things go wrong you bear the brunt of the blame."

O'Driscoll continues to profit from the absence of Paul O'Connell, who has not played since the final match of the RBS 6 Nations because of a groin injury that became infected.

Just four weeks ago, however, it appeared as though his grip on his Test place was loosening after managing to secure only a place on Munster's bench for key games against Leinster and London Irish.

Donnacha Ryan was the preferred choice to partner O'Callaghan, but O'Driscoll's fortunes changed when he was picked ahead of his younger rival against Toulon and produced an impressive performance.

The 32-year-old believes winning the selection race at Munster has enabled him to win the race with Ireland.

"Looking back six or eight weeks ago, if someone said then I'd be starting against South Africa I might have been a little bit bemused," he said.

"The situation at Munster helps. If Paul is fit, you have four international locks within the squad so there will be disappointments.

"I was on the bench against Leinster and London Irish but then started against Toulon. If you do OK, then you're literally in command.

"At the minute it looks like if you've won the battle at Munster, you're halfway there.

"I've spoke to the others about it. Because there are four international locks, and the young guys coming through, you have a good chance of being involved with Ireland if you're starting at Munster. It's all or nothing."

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney pointed out this week that O'Driscoll's contribution to Munster's Heineken Cup and Magners League campaigns in recent seasons has been equal to or greater than O'Connell's.

That fact is rarely recognised, but O'Driscoll is indifferent to his profile.

"I'm not too bothered about perception. I'm in rugby for me and my team-mates, not for what people think of me, either the media or the man in the street," he said.

Press Association

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