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Ireland v New Zealand: Brian O'Driscoll's out to finally topple his bogey side

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

By Sunday night, the All Blacks will have accounted for 10 per cent of Brian O'Driscoll's Test career and almost a quarter of his defeats.

Since 1999, the Leinster, Lions and Ireland centre has been at the front of the vanguard of Irish players who have broken glass ceilings all around them. Winning in Paris, securing club wins in France, Triple Crowns, the Grand Slam, Heineken Cups, Lions tours, and beating Australia at the World Cup have all been ticked off the list.

Beating New Zealand remains the last great hoodoo.

If things go according to form and Ireland are beaten by the world champions, no one outside the camp will be surprised, but it will be a small blot on O'Driscoll's copybook. Not enough to detract from a glorious career, but still an asterisk, a footnote, a small bit of oxygen for the detractors – 'Ah, but he never did it against the All Blacks', etc.

He very nearly did on a number of occasions and he remains, without doubt, the most respected Irish rugby player south of the equator.

But nobody really remembers the close calls.

"From a distance, you can just see how much effort he outs in and what it means to him. That's what I will remember the most, admirers all over the world because of it," said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster yesterday, while Richie McCaw described the former Irish captain as "classy."

The compliments are well-intentioned and the feeling is genuine, but the 34-year-old doesn't play for plaudits. Winning has always been his modus operandi and his drive for higher standards has helped rise the tide in Irish rugby.

He doesn't yet know how he will reflect on his career, he's putting that to one side for the six Tests and six months he has left. But he knows it's best not to leave anything to chance.

"I don't know whether it would gnaw at me, it's very hard to answer that going into the time I ever get to play against them," he said.

"I'm not going in with a defeatist attitude, I'm going into it believing a win is a distinct possibility, to do everything you can to prepare yourself for giving yourself a good chance and reflection is for when you're not playing anymore and I'm not a reflective guy, certainly not now and I don't know even if I will be in time.

"But I 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 and for me it is my last opportunity.

"I don't think it motivates you any differently, it just probably serves as a reminder out on the pitch that if you're struggling at some point that you realise there are no more goes after this, maybe that inspires yourself a little bit, maybe it picks things up, maybe you get to a ruck or need to make a tackle.

"It's one that has eluded me that any Irish side I have been a part of or any Lions side that I've been involved with haven't managed to beat the All Blacks and it is something that I would dearly love to do.

"That's the beauty of those really great victories is that they're hard fought, they're the ones that you really remember. We know what a big battle we have on our hands to achieve that so it's about building for the week to get to that point."

Saturday's performance and result against Australia will not sit well with him and, while there are major injury concerns and the best team in the world are residing just 15km away and looking to complete a historic 100 per cent season the portents of doom are many.

But Ireland's talisman is in defiant mood. This is the end of a one-way relationship and he is determined to at least go out with some fight.

"We have been licking our wounds a little but the realisation is that we need to play with a little bit of anger this weekend and make sure we are not lacking any ambition and any hunger that perhaps wasn't there last weekend," he said.

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