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O'DRISCOLL TO SAVOUR HITTING HALF CENTURY: Brian O'Driscoll will have the honour of captaining his country for the 50th time when he leads out Ireland for Saturday's GUINNESS Series 2008 Test against New Zealand at Croke Park.

The player himself, who has led Ireland to 33 wins to date, would dearly love to skipper Ireland to a first ever victory over the All Blacks.

"It's going to be a hugely special occasion for me and for everybody else, having the All Blacks for the first time at Croke Park," he said.

"It means extra, I suppose, because I've managed to captain the team on 50 occasions. I can remember my first like it was yesterday and hopefully we can mark Saturday with one to remember.

"This Irish team can definitely beat anyone on their day. We've taken a lot of scalps throughout the years, but the one team that we've failed to beat is the All Blacks.

"Hopefully we'll get a similar Croke Park atmosphere to the English game (from last year) and it'll give us a few points as a head's start."

To listen to a pre-match interview with the Ireland captain, click here.

CROKE PARK 'FIRSTS': Saturday's GUINNESS Series 2008 clash between Ireland and New Zealand will be the sixth Test match to be played at Croke Park.

Since that historic first game at the home of the GAA, against France in February 2007, Ireland have chalked up three wins over England, Italy and Scotland at the venue.

This will be New Zealand's first visit to Croke Park and they will have the honour of being the first Southern Hemisphere nation to play there.

It will also be Declan Kidney's first match in charge at Croker and the Corkman is delighted to get the opportunity.

"To be playing in a ground like Croke Park and knowing the history that is behind that and the generosity of the GAA in allowing us to do that, it's just absolutely massive," he said.

Among the players in Saturday's matchday squad who have not played at Croke Park yet are Alan Quinlan, Stephen Ferris, Shane Jennings and Keith Earls.

And not forgetting scrum half Tomas O'Leary whose last playing experience of the ground was when he captained the Cork minor hurlers to the All-Ireland title in 2001.

OLD FRIEND VISITS OLD CRESCENT: Ian Jones, New Zealand's most-capped lock, visited his former club Old Crescent RFC on Monday evening to meet up with old friends from his playing days in Limerick.

Ian spent some time playing for Old Crescent (during the 1992/93 season) before becoming a permanent fixture in the All Blacks set-up for most of the 1990s.

Old Crescent President Glenn Quin hosted a reception at the club's Rosbrien base for Ian and his colleagues from New Zealand's Sky TV, who were in Limerick in preparation for next week's Munster v New Zealand game.

Ian posed for photos with club President Quin and Old Crescent captain Phil Glamuzina, a fellow New Zealander.

SAY WHAT?:

"I'm not going to talk one guy up and the other guy down. We have three very good hookers. Two of them are going very well and showed that last Saturday.

"Jerry Flannery start last week. He's not starting this time. It was the other way around with Rory (Best), while Bernard Jackman is breathing down their necks as well.

"There will always be debate surrounding this position but I don't think there's a whole lot between them."

- Asked to explain his decision for selecting Rory Best ahead of Jerry Flannery for Saturday's match, Ireland coach Declan Kidney talks about the three hookers currently vying to start for Ireland

"They've got a great mental attitude when it comes to games against us. Whenever they're in trouble they pull it out of the fire.

"That's why we have such a bad record against them but we've still got a lot of belief - a lot of the guys are on form.

"The All Blacks are stoppable, although on their day they look unstoppable."

- Ireland lock Paul O'Connell gives his views on why the men in green have not beaten New Zealand in 21 Test matches to date

"Wellington last June was a hell of a night, in Hamilton (the previous year) the game could have gone either way.

"They did very well on their summer tour. They could have won both games (against us and Australia). They were probably unfortunate.

"I think this is going to be a hugely contested Test match."

- New Zealand coach Graham Henry looks forward to Saturday's game at Croke Park, admitting that Ireland probably did not have luck on their side when the teams met in Hamilton in 2006 and Wellington last June

NUMBERS GAME:

7 -
The number of times current team captain Richie McCaw has played for New Zealand against Ireland at Test level.

He made his debut for the All Blacks against Ireland in November 2001 and, of course, has never finished on the losing side against the men in green (yet!)

1684 - The total number of points Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara and New Zealand number 10 Dan Carter have scored between them in Test match rugby.

O'Gara's 848-point haul has him placed eighth in the list of world rugby's all-time top points scorers, with Carter (836 points) close behind. Former Australian international Matt Burke (878) is in seventh place

6 - The number of players in Saturday's matchday squads who played in the 2004 IRB Under-21 World Championship final between the two countries.

They are Tomas O'Leary and Jamie Heaslip from the Irish side and New Zealand's Jerome Kaino, John Afoa, Piri Weepu and Stephen Donald

COUNTDOWN TO CROKER: FOUR DAYS TO GO

COUNTDOWN TO CROKER: FIVE DAYS TO GO

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20 June 2018
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