O'Driscoll returns to lead Ireland - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Driscoll returns to lead Ireland

03/06/2008 07:53:27 PM Comments (0)

World-class centre Brian O'Driscoll is back to lead a near full-strength Ireland side against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday and hopes they can transfer domestic success to the Test rugby stage.

There had been doubts over whether O'Driscoll would make the two-Test tour of Australasia following the death of close friend Barry Twomey, which saw him sit out last week's match against the Barbarians in England.

However, he joined the squad a day late on Monday and said his mind was focused squarely on leading the Irish to what would be their first win over New Zealand.

"All I want to say about last week was that it was a brutal week in my life and a lot of my friends' lives," he said.

"It came as a shock and I suppose rugby was secondary for that period of time.

"But like my friends said, he (Twomey) would expect me to go on tour and that was all the convincing I needed."

Only Munster loose forward Alan Quinlan was unavailable for Saturday although coach Michael Bradley is confident his bruised thigh will improve in time to make him available for the following Test against Australia in Melbourne on June 14.

Had Quinlan been selected, he might have been part of a forward pack comprised completely of players from European club champions Munster.

Leinster No.8 Jamie Heaslip is the only member of the Irish pack who wasn't in the Munster side who overpowered Toulouse to win the recent Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.

Ireland failed to advance from the pool stage at last year's World Cup and were fourth in the subsequent Six Nations championship.

However, O'Driscoll senses Irish rugby is on an upward curve due to their recent domestic success.

"When you look at the provincial set-ups, one team won the Magners League (Leinster) and one team won the Heineken Cup," O'Driscoll said, adding that halfback Eion Reddan was also a key part of English premiership champions Wasps.

"There are guys back and used to winning things. When you put all that into the melting pot it's a great combination to have.

"If we could just transfer that across to the international stage, we'd definitely have the player capabilities."

There are also familiar combinations in the backline, where four Leinster players will start.

That includes fullback Robert Kearney, who won the nod over veterans Geordan Murphy and Girvan Dempsey, and promising centre Luke Fitzgerald, who will link again with Leinster veteran O'Driscoll.

Fitzgerald has not trained this week because of an injured ankle but Bradley is confident the 20-year-old will train on Thursday and be fit for his fifth Test.

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