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O’Driscoll: Pressure Is On The All Blacks

O’Driscoll: Pressure Is On The All Blacks

Although wins for Leinster and Munster in the Magners League and Heineken Cup have increased expectations for the summer tour, Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll insisted that the pressure is on the All Blacks for Saturday’s clash in Wellington.

Facing the media at Tuesday’s team announcement press conference, Brian O’Driscoll said: “I don’t really think there is much pressure on us at all. You can look at it two ways – we haven’t really produced anything and there is always pressure from that end, but I don’t think there will be a huge level of expectation back home.

“We’ve never beaten New Zealand, so people are probably wondering: ‘why should this be the time?’

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“The All Blacks the ones who have the record, they’re the ones who always have a greater level of expectation, so I think that the pressure is back on them.”

Due to the death of his close friend last week, O’Driscoll touched down on New Zealand soil 24 hours after his Ireland team-mates but despite what has been a very difficult time for him, the Leinster centre admitted he was never close to quitting the tour.

“I didn’t come that close at all. All I really want to say about last week was that it was a brutal week in my life and in the lives of a lot of my friends. It came as a shock,” he said.

“Rugby was secondary for that period of time but my friend’s dad said that Barry would have expected me to go on tour. That was all the convincing I needed.”

O’Driscoll’s enforced withdrawal for the Barbarians game meant the debut of the O’Driscoll-Luke Fitzgerald centre partnership will be belatedly made this weekend at the Westpac Stadium. So does the skipper sees something of his younger self in the 20-year-old Fitzgerald?

“Maybe a little bit. I probably didn’t have as much ability as Luke and maybe not as much confidence,” he admitted.

“Not ignorant to the pressures that are on you at that age, but as a youngster you have a little bit of naiveity and I think that can really work to your advantage. I think it certainly did for me when I was younger.

“Luke’s such an exciting talent for such a young guy. He has confidence in abundance. I think that will alleviate any nervousness a lot of people in that position might feel.”

O’Driscoll confirmed that both he and Fitzgerald will interchange between the inside and outside centre positions against the All Blacks, as they ‘play a bit of old school left and right.’

“I’ve made sure that I’ve only ever worn the 13 jersey playing for Ireland, that’s just a number thing but there will be certain plays where we’ll be mixing and matching and keeping the All Blacks guessing,” said Ireland’s record try scorer.

“Luke will be really looking forward to the challenge. If you knew his character, he would want to pit himself against the best in the world, and what better opportunity than against the All Blacks.”

Of the team which interim coach Michael Bradley has selected for the Wellington Test, 14 players have gained winners’ medals this season – eight from Munster in the Heineken Cup, five from Leinster in the Magners League and one (Eoin Reddan) with Wasps in the Guinness Premiership.

Having that winning mentality coursing through this Irish side is a big plus for O’Driscoll and the management team.

“Winning does become a bit of habit, and the more games you find yourself in that are very close and you come out on the right side of the result, you know what buttons to push when you find yourself in that situation again.

“The more guys on the pitch that have that mentality, the better. Particularly Munster coming off the back of the Heineken Cup victory – the guts of our pack is from Munster.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to transfer that mentality that they’ve had which has been outstanding for them and has been the hallmark of the provincial scene down there. Now it’s just a case of bringing it to the international scene,” he explained.