O’Driscoll gearing up to lead NZ tour

Brian O’Driscoll has declared himself fit for Ireland’s three-Test tour to New Zealand next month.

The Irish captain played Saturday’s Heineken Cup final with his right knee heavily strapped after undergoing keyhole surgery eight days earlier and was limping heavily towards the end of the game at Twickenham.

O’Driscoll trained just once in the week leading up to the decider but has confirmed that he will be available for Sunday’s RaboDirect PRO12 decider against Ospreys at the RDS and, after that, the daunting task of facing the world champion All Blacks.

“He is good to go,” said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt. “He probably missed a little bit of match fitness. He was just getting back match fit (after neck surgery earlier in the season) and missing another couple of weeks was not the best thing for him. With a little bit of time under his belt next week, he will be right for New Zealand.”

Ireland travel down under seeking a first success against the All Blacks but do so on the back of a poor Six Nations and one that finished with a resounding defeat at the hands of England in London.

The failure of the national selection to mirror the ongoing provincial successes has prompted much head scratching in recent years but O’Driscoll believes this latest European success can play a part in arming Declan Kidney’s squad in June.

“There will be disappointment from the Ulster lads but we have to look to the fact that we had two provinces in the Heineken Cup final and use that confidence for the tour down in New Zealand. We are fortunate that we have another game to think about this weekend but as soon as we get into camp, we will switch onto the job of travelling down there and trying to attain that first Test victory against the All Blacks.”

O’Driscoll has always set the bar high, even in the days when club and country were a considerable number of rungs down the ladder from where they find themselves right now. Next season is already in his sights.

“It is about being selfish and wanting more,” he admitted. “It wasn’t as tense going into the last 10 minutes for us, there was still great elation but different to the other two (finals).

“People were saying it tongue in cheek, ‘can you do three in-a-row’.

“The pleasure of being involved with this group of players is that I know how hungry they are. I know how they will push one another.

“I would imagine we would definitely try to defend the title as much as we did this year.”

They look fair set to give it a right rattle. Most clubs send out press releases listing the number of players they are releasing towards the end of the season. Leinster sent one out last month with a raft of names who had signed on the dotted line again. No-one wants to leave now, not with such a team and coaching staff, and the juggernaut is gathering speed off field as well as they move to new training facilities in UCD next year.

For now, though, they can bask in another job well done.

O’Driscoll admitted: “It’s a great feeling to have won three in four. It is a great achievement. You play things through in your head so many times and you try not to think of the outcome but it is hard and there is a huge sense of relief when you do manage to win. Thankfully, we managed to do it quite convincingly, more than the other two finals we were involved in.”


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