10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
"To have someone come along like Gordon ... I guess he has been a breath of fresh air for us this year in that he set the standard of centre play," the Irish captain said.
"Now I have something to strive for, and to look for a couple of headlines that don't have D'Arcy in them these days I am going to have to play better!"
An injury to O'Driscoll saw coach Gary Ella give D'Arcy the opportunity to show his worth in the number 13 jersey for Leinster and his performances in that position were nothing less than sensational.
He retained the position in the international team which meant a switch to inside centre for the Irish captain. They have since become perhaps the most lethal centre combination in world rugby.
The first Test against South Africa sees them come up against the formidable pairing of De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert but O'Driscoll believes both himself and his partner and indeed the squad are well up to the task. "We feel we are confident enough to deal with what is thrown at us.
"Both are pretty big, physical guys and they complement each other's play, so we are most certainly going to have our work cut out," he said.
"I'm sure it's going to be very tough against the Springboks, but we look forward to that challenge. Playing in these big games and having difficult situations in front of you is what you play rugby for."