O'Driscoll desperate to tick the All Blacks box

Ireland faces New Zealand in the first of three rugby tests on Saturday.

Ireland faces New Zealand in the first of three rugby tests on Saturday. Picture: AFP

AUCKLAND - Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll is proud to say that he has "ticked a lot of boxes" in his illustrious rugby career.

Three-times a British and Irish Lion, he has led his country to Triple Crowns, a Six Nations title and a grand slam. He has won the European Cup with Leinster three times, most recently last month.

But one particular box does not have a tick. In the nine times the 33-year-old centre has played the All Blacks in his 117-test Ireland career, he has never been on the winning side.

O'Driscoll, who was named on Thursday to lead the side out at Eden Park against the All Blacks in the first of three tests on Saturday, is well aware that he is fast running out of time to be on the winning side against the world champions.

"We have said it for a few years that at some stage, whether it is this year, 10 years or 20 years, at some time an Irish team is going to beat the All Blacks before the world implodes," O'Driscoll told reporters on Thursday.

"(But) we need to try and make it now before our kids, or our kids' kids see it happen.

"This is one that has eluded us, not just this group of players but Irish players in general," he added.

"I think that speaks volumes for the challenge it is and the enormity of the task for us."

Ireland and the All Blacks have met 24 times since they first began playing tests in 1905. The closest Ireland came to achieving a victory was a 10-10 draw in Dublin in 1973.

Coupled with that history, New Zealand are unbeaten at Eden Park in 27 matches, a run stretching back to their loss against France in 1994.

They also won the World Cup last October and are starting a new regime under coach Steve Hansen, who has to manage the high expectations of the rugby-mad country and rebuild a side capable of defending the world title in 2015.

The All Blacks are notoriously slow starters in their international season and have spent just one week together due to the elongated Super Rugby competition.

Hansen said, however, he expected his experienced players, 12 of whom in the starting lineup were World Cup winners, would stand up and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

"Ireland won't be coming down here with any other attitude than to win," Hansen said.

"We saw their last performance at Eden Park against Australia (during the World Cup) and they're capable of putting together a top performance.

"We need our senior players and the leaders in our group to stand up and be All Blacks like they have been in the past.

"They've set a line in the sand in terms of their performances in the past and have to go beyond that."


New Zealand - 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Zac Guildford, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Victor Vito, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock.

Ireland - 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Fergus McFadden, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Keith Earls, 11-Simon Zebo, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-Sean O'Brien, 6-Peter O'Mahony, 5-Donnacha Ryan, 4-Dan Touhy, 3-Declan Fitzpatrick, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healy

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)