O'Driscoll insists Ireland more than capable of competing with All Blacks
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL has laughed off doubts over his ability to still compete at the highest level and believes he can end his rocky relationship with the All Blacks on a high this weekend.
The Ireland legend has lost to New Zealand 13 times in an otherwise glittering career, which will conclude at the end of the season.
Being part of the first Irish team to beat the Kiwis represents one of the few remaining unticked boxes and, although his calf injury resurfaced in the desperately disappointing defeat to Australia last weekend, the Lions centre is confident he will be fit to face the greatest team in the world one final time before he retires in May.
O'Driscoll is one of three injury worries for Joe Schmidt, whose squad returned to training yesterday. Fergus McFadden is definitely out after it was confirmed that he had broken a bone in his hand in the Wallabies defeat, while Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney are major doubts, with a hamstring strain and a rib injury, respectively – both may be given until Saturday to prove their fitness if they are named in the team on Friday.
Faced with the prospect of going into the most daunting challenge of the season without his first-choice out-half and full-back, Schmidt would be loath to lose O'Driscoll, who appeared in determined mood after a self-confessed below-par performance against the Wallabies.
"I take heed of certain people's criticism and ignore others. It's water off a duck's back," O'Driscoll said.
The Leinster centre also insisted it was up to Ireland to take the game to the world champions, who are one win from a perfect 2013.
"I'm the eternal optimist, and I think you have to be in this game. The day that you are going out to contain a team, you're finished," said the 34-year-old.
"It's not about containing anyone, it's about going out and trying to bring your game to the opposition the way you feel you can.
"Yes, no one will give us a chance, but that's okay with us. In our own heads we'll feel we're more than capable of absolutely competing with them.
"We have to put ourselves in a position come the latter part of the game where we're in the hunt. We have the capability to be within touching distance of them."
Joe Schmidt has drafted Ulster's Darren Cave in as cover for O'Driscoll, while Munster's Felix Jones has also been added to the squad and is a live contender along with Robbie Henshaw for Kearney's No 15 jersey if the Louth man does not make it.
Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Jennings and Donncha O'Callaghan have remained with the squad and trained yesterday.
The All Blacks have definitely ruled out Dan Carter, but veteran prop Tony Woodcock is recovering from injury and may still play a part.