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One last chance for O'Driscoll

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Sportal.co.nz     21 Nov 2013     Getty Images

The former British and Irish Lions, and Ireland, captain has known many of rugby's honours, but like his countrymen who first met the All Blacks in 1905, they have never known victory over New Zealand.

But as he contemplates retirement he said never having beaten New Zealand would be a frustration if it wasn't achieved on Monday, but he didn't think it would be something that would 'gnaw' at him.

"It's very hard to answer that going into the last time I'm ever going to play against them. Going in thinking that [that Ireland had never won] this week is a defeatist attitude.

"I'm going into it thinking there's a distinct possibility of beating them, and we need to do everything we can to prepare ourselves for giving ourselves a good chance," he told the Irish Times.

"Reflection is for when you're not playing anymore and I'm not a reflective guy, certainly not now and I don't even know if I will be in time.

"But I just can't think of it not being a great chance, a great opportunity. All you can ask is for these opportunities. You're never guaranteed any more than that and this is just one more opportunity, and for me it's my last," he said.

The contest this weekend would be his 14th against New Zealand and given the last encounter was a 60-0 defeat at Hamilton last year it was a tough task, especially when adding their defeat by Australia last weekend.

But the experienced O'Driscoll said the fear factor might not be a bad thing for the Irish, it concentrated the mind.

"A fear fact is often a good motivation. It's a combination of the anger of our performance and then the realisation that yes, we did get 60 points put against us to no score last time.

"It is something that heightens my concentration that you need to stay on your toes for 80 minutes because they can score for fun; if you're in any scenario they can score 14 points in two or three minutes if they are given the opportunity," he said of the All Blacks.

O'Driscoll said Steve Hansen's team were playing with more tempo and speed and backed themselves to play that type of game.

"You see the speed of getting to the ball that has been kicked out of the play, the speed at which the lineout goes, they are always playing front-foot football and they back themselves from a fitness point of view, but they are a vastly skilful team right across the board," he said.

"You have got props that can throw 15-metre passes right into the breadbasket of the next guy running onto, so you see these guys at this level being technically very good too.

"They are so efficient in the breakdown, they are only clearing with two guys and one ball-carrier. That probably leaves 12 to play or organise. Not many teams can do that and that is probably one thing that sets them apart," he said.

The challenge of playing the best side in the world excited him, he said because it was only against the great sides that you found out about yourself, physically and mentally.

"When you win in scenarios like that, that's why it feels special with those guys around you because you know what it has taken, because one day you are going to hit that brilliant performance and people are going to talk about it and make plays about it," he said.