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Ireland v New Zealand: Beware the wounded All Blacks bear, says Brian O'Driscoll

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 17/11/2016

Brian O'Driscoll:
Brian O'Driscoll: "Getting back to four points and then kicking on and winning by 11 two weeks ago showed huge steel"

Ireland rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll has likened the wounded New Zealand All Blacks to a baited and angry bear ahead of this weekend's Dublin rematch between the teams.

The whole of Irish rugby is steeled for an All Blacks backlash to Ireland's historic win over New Zealand in Chicago two weeks ago.

Now Ireland have the even more daunting task on Saturday night of trying to replicate that victory and become the first side since then-world champions South Africa in 2009 to record back-to-back victories over the All Blacks.

The last team to beat the All Blacks, Australia, were hammered 41-13 the next match - the start of an 18-game winning All Blacks streak - and O'Driscoll is fully aware of the size of the task.

O'Driscoll backed Ireland to beat the bookmakers' spread of winning by plus 23 in Chicago, winning "a couple of quid, nothing life changing but enough to add to a good weekend", and insists they can do it again.

But he warned: "We've definitely poked the bear. It'll be harder the second time around, knowing what has just gone, because they will come absolutely all guns blazing. I think Brodie Retallick will be back for New Zealand. It just shows what a huge player he is for them. He's enormous to them."

O'Driscoll added: "I met Joe Schmidt a couple of days beforehand and said with a grin, 'they don't have Retallick and Sam Whitelock playing'.

"They were words said in jest but I do think that they are a different team with those two and you won't see New Zealand make those unforced errors again."

Every member of the Irish side that started the 40-29 win in the United States was given the weekend off against Canada, but while they will be physically ready to go at it again with the World Cup winners, recreating the emotional intensity needed will be a more difficult challenge.

"They're at home. It's an added bonus that they're going to go back to Dublin at the Aviva and they will have a massively partisan crowd there cheering them on - not that you ever need cheering on against the All Blacks," said O'Driscoll.

"With having one victory under your belt, I know Joe Schmidt won't be content with that, he will want to go and do the unthinkable by beating them back-to-back.

"They will have put the previous game to bed and be focused on the second one.

"We were just unlucky for 108 years weren't we? We need them to have an off day, we need to be great and we need a little bit of luck.

"But we made our own luck as well. Getting back to four points and then kicking on and winning by 11 two weeks ago showed huge steel."

While beating New Zealand was something O'Driscoll could never add to his illustrious career timeline, he did manage to achieve a British and Irish Lions series victory.

There are seven months between the New Zealand game and Warren Gatland's Lions squad announcement, and O'Driscoll thinks a lot of Irishmen have put their hands up for selection.

None more so than Conor Murray, who the 2005 Lions captain now rates as the best scrum-half on the planet.

"Aaron Smith, six months ago, was the best nine in the world. I think Conor Murray is now the best nine in the world," he said.

Smith will be chomping at the bit to show O'Driscoll that is not the case when he takes to the field on Saturday teatime, as he and the rest of the All Blacks will be desperate to prove the old adage about a wounded animal being most dangerous rings true in Dublin."They were words said in jest but I do think that they are a different team with those two and you won't see New Zealand make those unforced errors again."

Every member of the Irish side that started the 40-29 win in the United States was given the weekend off against Canada, but while they will be physically ready to go at it again with the World Cup winners, recreating the emotional intensity needed will be a more difficult challenge.

"They're at home. It's an added bonus that they're going to go back to Dublin at the Aviva and they will have a massively partisan crowd there cheering them on - not that you ever need cheering on against the All Blacks," said O'Driscoll.

"With having one victory under your belt, I know Joe Schmidt won't be content with that, he will want to go and do the unthinkable by beating them back-to-back.

"They will have put the previous game to bed and be focused on the second one.

"We were just unlucky for 108 years weren't we? We need them to have an off day, we need to be great and we need a little bit of luck.

"But we made our own luck as well. Getting back to four points and then kicking on and winning by 11 two weeks ago showed huge steel."

While beating New Zealand was something O'Driscoll could never add to his illustrious career timeline, he did manage to achieve a British and Irish Lions series victory.

There are seven months between the New Zealand game and Warren Gatland's Lions squad announcement, and O'Driscoll thinks a lot of Irishmen have put their hands up for selection.

None more so than Conor Murray, who the 2005 Lions captain now rates as the best scrum-half on the planet.

"Aaron Smith, six months ago, was the best nine in the world. I think Conor Murray is now the best nine in the world," he said.

Smith will be chomping at the bit to show O'Driscoll that is not the case when he takes to the field on Saturday teatime, as he and the rest of the All Blacks will be desperate to prove the old adage about a wounded animal being most dangerous rings true in Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph

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