O'Driscoll delighted to be back in green

Getty Images     08 Jun 2012     Getty Images

The World Cup was his last game and that seemed like an eternity ago, he said.

O'Driscoll, the Irish captain and centre, said the prospect of playing New Zealand never lessened.

"I don't know how many times I've been lucky enough to play but it's always an enormous challenge and one that you thoroughly look forward to because, obviously, you're playing the world champions now and the first game after rightly winning the crown so it's a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity," he said.

O'Driscoll admitted to having been a bit of a fan of league he was aware of second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams' reputation and he felt he had come on in 'leaps and bounds' recently.

"I think he's grown into his role and understanding of the intricacies of the game of Union but he brings a particular spark to things, first and foremost with his off-loading game and his skill set but I think within the All Black set up he's brought into the team first mentality and I think he's evolved very well as a result of that," he said.

At the same time he rated centre Conrad Smith 'very high up' among his rivals in midfield.

"He's a very, very smart footballer, doesn't make many mistakes. You can tell that he's a real thinker and a guy that has a big engine on him. He picks up, for want of a better phrase, easy tries but it's because he's in the right place at the right time as he continually runs those lines and puts himself there," he said.

The beating of the All Blacks was going to happen at some time, he would prefer it was sooner rather than later, but it remained a notch below winning the World Cup as the ultimate in the game.

"I've managed to tick a lot of boxes along the way with the Irish side and beating the other Southern Hemisphere nations ... but this is one that has eluded us not just this group of players but Irish players in general so I think that speaks volumes for the challenge that it is and the enormity of what is in front of us," he said.

Having contact with so many New Zealand coaches and players in domestic rugby in Ireland did have an effect on the players.

It wasn't only Leinster coach Joe Schmidt, who had seen two Heineken Cups won by his side in the last two years, but former All Blacks Doug Howlett and Brad Thorn and former Blues star Isa Nacewa, and other coaches and players through the years.

"It's not only what they bring from specifics and a rugby point of view but it's also a little bit of the mentality side of things too," he said, adding that he took things from players of all nationalities that he come up against.

"It's constantly trying to evolve and make yourself a better player and if that means taking aspects of other players game that you really like then so be it.

"There's no patent on certain plays and moves within the sport that we play," he said.

One thing that had been of benefit from playing with Thorn, he added, was Thorn's claim that you should listen to your body and if it said you should carry on playing then so be it.

If the vibes are good for O'Driscoll then that could be on-going good news for Ireland.