Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Carter loss won't hit Kiwis - O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll insists Dan Carter's absence will not make New Zealand any easier to beat

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll believes New Zealand remain formidable opponents despite the loss of Dan Carter to injury.

Carter, whose late drop goal broke Ireland's hearts in last week's 22-19 defeat, suffered a hamstring injury in training and will be replaced at fly-half by Aaron Cruden for the third Test in Hamilton this weekend. The All Blacks won the World Cup despite losing Carter for much of the tournament and O'Driscoll expects Cruden to seize his chance.

"They managed okay in the World Cup, didn't they?" he said. "Dan Carter is a world-class player but Aaron Cruden is handy enough and he has shown it."

He went on: "The bits I've seen of the Super Rugby this season he has been pretty impressive.

"They have to look at life without Dan Carter and it gives Aaron a great opportunity. It is not all about the guy pulling strings at 10, you need smart players around you and I think New Zealand have that."

While the hosts are without their star man, Ireland will be at full strength after the return to fitness of Keith Earls. The Munster flyer will line up on the left wing, with Paddy Wallace partnering O'Driscoll at centre and Peter O'Mahony taking Jamie Heaslip's place at number eight.

The starting line-up is otherwise unchanged from the side that came within 35 seconds of securing a draw with the world champions last week.

Wallace is O'Driscoll's third different midfield partner in the three-Test series, but the skipper has no doubts over the Ulster player's capabilities.

"Any time you have someone like Paddy coming in, he will always bring something," he said. "Not just his playing ability but the character he is around the squad. I've known Paddy a long time, played underage level with him, under-19s, through college and through senior rugby with Ireland.

"Knowing the type of professional he is, the shape that he has kept himself in, Paddy will do an excellent job. I'm looking forward to reigniting that midfield partnership with him."

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