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O'Driscoll calls for Croke Park effect

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Sportal.co.nz     15 Nov 2008     Getty Images

Ireland celebrated its temporary residency at the home of Gaelic sport - a revered symbol of national pride - by dismantling England 43-13 in last year's Six Nations.

The significance of an English team visiting Croke Park for the first time - and leaving thoroughly beaten - was felt far beyond the back pages.

And while O'Driscoll admits tomorrow does not hold such a deep historical context, he believes the century-long wait for victory over the All Blacks has created its own atmosphere.

"There is definitely an element of being able to compare the build up to this game and the England match," he said.

"There was a bit more history involving the England game but it's a first for New Zealand to come to Croke Park.

"Against England there was a lot more than sport involved but the All Blacks are No.1 in the world so there's huge hype around this match too."

New Zealand coach Graham Henry admits his side must control the emotion that will greet them on their first visit to Croke Park

"There's always an edge before a Test match but this time there is probably more edge," he said.

"We're playing at an historic venue which is quite emotional and we need to control those emotions. The venue is hugely significant."

O'Driscoll, who was rested for this morning's captain's run, has called on Ireland fans to play their part in toppling the world's No.1 side.

"It's rare that Ireland teams can play in front of 75,000 home supporters," he said.

"Croke Park has that aura about it and the conditions are fantastic. It's a place you want to play rugby as an Irishman.

"It's great that it's a 5.15pm kick-off because I'm sure the local watering holes will be packed out from 2pm.

"People tend to be a bit more vocal when they have a couple inside them.

"Hopefully that will work to our advantage, as long as they don't have to visit the toilet every five minutes!"

All week an air of quiet confidence has run through the Ireland camp for Declan Kidney's second match in charge.

New Zealand has selected its strongest side - including Dan Carter and Richie McCaw - and has never lost to the Irish in 21 previous encounters.

But it was pushed desperately close in their last three meetings and O'Driscoll is not dazzled my the All Black mystique.

"We don't have a mental block against New Zealand, rather in the past we've played for 60 or 65 minutes, sometimes even 70 minutes," he said.

"But they punish you when you fall away, so it's definitely an 80/85 minute match.

"Having never beaten them, there's not a huge amount of pressure on us.

"We don't get caught up in the All Black aura or mystique, perhaps that changed with professionalism.

"We've beaten sides who have won against New Zealand, so why shouldn't we be capable of beating them ourselves?"