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...but O’Driscoll is fired up for Six Nations kick-off

Brian O'Driscoll has warned his Six Nations rivals that he's far from finished and he's "buzzing" ahead of Ireland's kick-off against Italy on Saturday week.

The Irish captain admits the physical toll of the tournament is greater than ever, but despite celebrating his 32nd birthday last week, he says that his determination to lead his country to success still gets the adrenalin flowing.

Playing in the tournament for a 12th successive year, O'Driscoll insists all teams are suffering amid the demands of the game.

"The Six Nations has definitely got harder over the years. The game has become harder, more physical, more demanding," he said at yesterday's tournament launch in London.

"If you asked 100 players in the Six Nations how many of them were 100pc fit, 99 would say they had some niggle and the other person would be a liar.

"But adrenalin is brilliant at getting you through those small ailments that you have. The feeling you get in a winning dressing-room makes you forget the sore muscles and bones for a couple of hours. It's definitely a feeling I enjoy."

Seeing no reason to place a time frame on his international retirement, O'Driscoll is happy to take a pragmatic approach that will enable him to enjoy what time he has left.

"I've stopped putting time constraints on myself as to when I have to give up," he said. "As long as the body is still feeling good and the mind is backing that up, I don't see any reason to give up.

"I'm really looking forward to the Six Nations because I love this competition. My interest hasn't waned in any way over the last decade or so. If anything I have more of a hunger for it now in the knowledge that I don't know how many more years I will have left. You treat each Six Nations like it could be your last. In doing so you thoroughly enjoy each moment."

Ahead of the Six Nations opener in Rome, O'Driscoll admits that the trip to the Italian capital has the potential to be "difficult," but insists his team-mates are looking forward to it. Players do enjoy it there -- it's a good atmosphere in the stadium. But if you slip behind, like we did two years ago, it can be a difficult place to fight your way back," he said.

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Italy face an uphill struggle in the Six Nations once again, but their coach Nick Mallett takes heart from the lack of clear favourites in the tournament.

"Our aims are always the same. We must attempt to win every game but we're not arrogant enough to think we can," said Mallett. "There's no one team that we think is much stronger than the rest."

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