Picturedabove: Malcolm O'Kelly, Brian O'Driscoll, Marcus Horan and PaddyWallace go through some stretches at Friday morning's training sessionon Lansdowne Road's back pitch.
O'Driscoll, 27, will duel it out with Australia's new-look and power-packed midfield of Lote Tuqiri and tour captain Stirling Mortlock onSunday. The Leinster centre has noted Tuqiri's comments this week thatthe Wallabies management have spotted weaknesses in his game and theTuqiri-Mortlock combination will seek to expose them at Lansdowne Road.
But O'Driscoll admitted: "It's not a concern even if Lote has found some weaknesses. Every player in the world has weaknesses.I've never said I'm the complete player - far from it. There is alwayspotential in every player to exploit a weakness at some stage.
"Lote will have done some video analysis and seen where he feels I'mweak. It will be my job to defend myself and make sure he doesn'texploit me in the way he thinks he can."
O'Driscoll added: "I'm not going to pinpoint Lote's weaknesses but there's potential to beat him at times, like anyone else. There's always scope for improving your game, no matter who you are - Dan Carter, Richie McCaw or Lote Tuqiri. I'll do my best to break him down."
O'Driscoll has led Ireland to 22 wins in his 31 outings as captain. Ironically Ireland beat Australia 18-9 in November 2002 in O'Driscoll's first game as captain.
Leinster and Ireland team-mates Denis Hickie and Brian O'Driscoll go head-to-head in training. The pair will be hoping to rediscover their form of the 2003/04 Test season when they shared out 15 tries- Hickie scored against Italy (4), Scotland, Romania (2) and Namibia,while O'Driscoll dotted down against Australia, France (2), Wales (2),Italy and South Africa.
Leinster winger Denis Hickie, 30,has yet to score against Australia. He has bagged tries against SouthAfrica (November 2000) and New Zealand (November 2001) so will be aftera Southern Hemisphere hat-trick on Sunday.
Neil Best takes the ball on at training, as Gordon D'Arcy, Frankie Sheahan and Bryan Young watch on. Despite limiting the Springboks to just two tries last weekend, defensive coach Graham Steadman islooking for the Irish to take their defence up a notch against theWallabies. He said: "To be honest, I was a little disappointed with thedefence (against South Africa). We started slowly, and I'm looking for much-improved defensive play on Sunday.
"I think this Australian team are much more clinical in theirexecution, with all due respect to the South Africans. They play with alot of subtlety, and with Matt Giteau startingat number 9 they have more options. He's a real threat," he admitted.
Former Ireland Under-19 captain Bryan Young will make his first senior start this weekend and forwards coach Niall O'Donovan gave the 25-year-old his endorsement at Friday's press conference. He said: "Bryan's very professional in the way he goes about his work.He started as a loosehead last year, but with the injury to Simon(Best) he ended up playing tighthead. He's a versatile guy, which is noharm when it comes to propping.
"We need to see how he reacts at this level, because the front row isan area where we were thin on the ground. We're fortunate in that bothhe and and Simon can play on both sides. It's good to have guys likethat, who can mix both sides. It's important too to get good cover for John Hayes, and Simon and Bryan are really boosting our options as regards props."
Ulster scrum half Isaac Boss will have a central role to play on Sunday as Ireland look to keep the high level of retention of possession in contact that they had against South Africa last weekend.
Speaking on Friday, Ireland's skills coach Brian McLaughlin said:"We've worked very hard at that (ball retention in contact) in the lastyear or two, and we are trying to play exciting rugby. You are going toget little mistakes, there will be little errors when you're trying toplay at that pace.
"It's also down to the work the players have done themselves in improving. They have also taken loads of confidence from the way they performed last week. Ourskills were exceptional in the poor conditions against New Zealandduring the summer tour and in Perth (against Australia), for the firsthalf and 10 minutes of the second, our continuity was outstanding."
Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara will once again be a key player for the hosts on Sunday afternoon. His Munster team-mate Jerry Flannery feelsthe expected rain will also see 'Rog' come to the fore. The sidelinedhooker said: "According to the forecasts it's going to be a wet sod atLansdowne, and that suits us. Those are alien conditions for theAustralians, and the crucial aspect of our armoury in this regard isRonan O'Gara.
"With the possible exception of Dan Carter, there is not a number 10 inthe world who bears comparison to Rog right now, and the Aussies willrecall how he destroyed them in the rain at Lansdowne four years ago.Even if Sunday dawns bright and dry, his form is such right now that he remains a true game-breaker," he told the Irish Daily Mail.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**
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