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Ireland closing the stamina gap

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Sportal.co.nz     15 Jun 2012     Getty Images

On previous tours to New Zealand, O'Driscoll said the All Blacks seemed to be able to find extra reserves of fitness in the final stages to deny Ireland chances and until they could match that ability they would struggle to win.

Ahead of Saturday's second Test at Christchurch, O'Driscoll believed his side were fitter now with players well capable of running hard until the end of games. There was no fitness test evidence to back that observation, but it was his feeling nonetheless.

"I think they [New Zealand] definitely back themselves on a fitness point of view and bringing that intensity and we're not that far off."

Marrying fitness with the strategy of how they played the game and the tactics of how they played was what made the All Blacks a stand apart team.

"You just have to get all those components correct together and I genuinely believe if we can get those three or four things right we'll be there or thereabouts. We just have to produce a really big performance one to 15," he said.

O'Driscoll said that irrespective of who you were playing every time you pulled on the green jersey of Ireland you played with a huge amount of pride.

"We're not playing for second best this weekend, we play to win every time. When things go wrong for you, you go back and try to put them right," he said.

The requirement for Ireland was to be concerned about their own game which meant playing better than they did in Auckland and not conceding as many turnovers.

"We were a little lethargic at times. Fitness levels are very strong within the squad so we don't have that within reserve so it's just a case of switching on upstairs and making sure you are ready to go when you have to defend, and in attack as well go when the opportunity arises."

Coach Declan Kidney said: "We took a heavy hit on Saturday night but we're also long enough in it to realise if we get our parts right it closes up quite considerably and like Brian said it is about us getting ourselves right and that's what we've been concentrating on."

There were too many turnovers and any side in the world would punish you for that, but against the best side in the world they would punish you severely, he said.

The new touring format had a benefit in once the first Test was over there wasn't a need to change the build-up for a new opponent, as that knowledge was already in place.

"What we know is New Zealand will be 15-20 percent a better side this weekend...they've shown that in the past. They get better as they get into their season.

"It's new for everybody but it is still just a game. These are all sideshows, it's just about rocking up on Saturday night and playing to the best of our ability. Whatever anybody else does around that occasion is fine by them, we just want to play to the best of our abilities," he said.

Ireland made four changes to their team for the second Test. Gordon D'Arcy replaced Keith Earls at second five-eighths while Mike Ross returned to prop ahead of Declan Fitzpatrick. Andrew Trimble replaced Simon Zebo on the wing while Kevin McLaughlin replaced Peter O'Mahony on the blindside flank.

Ireland: 1.Cian Healy, 2.Rory Best, 3.Mike Ross, 4.Dan Touhy, 5.Donnacha Ryan, 6.Kevin McLaughlin, 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Jamie Heaslip, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Jonathan Sexton, 11.Andrew Trimble, 12.Gordon D'Arcy, 13.Brian O'Driscoll, 14.Fergus McFadden, 15.Rob Kearney.

Reserves: 16.Sean Cronin, 17.Declan Fitzpatrick, 18.Donncha O'Callaghan, 19.Peter O'Mahony, 20.Eoin Reddan, 21.Ronan O'Gara, 22.Simon Zebo.