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Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Driscoll: We're not lacking in motivation

COACH Steven Hansen has opened the door labelled 'hope' for Ireland on the basis of making six changes.

This includes the exclusion of their best back, fly-half Dan Carter (hamstring), and best forward, Kieran Read (concussion), on current form, and an international bow for lock Luke Romano.

You can put all the relevant data from strengths, weaknesses, individual merits to scrum, lineout, maul, breakdown and on into collective attack and defence, and it won't amount to a hill of beans unless the attitude is spot-on.

That is what Ireland got so wrong in the first Test and so right in the second.

Captain Brian O'Driscoll will drill home the non-negotiable significance of commitment to the cause, belief in the game plan and the execution of it.

The pain of coming so close last Saturday and, yet, being just as far away from a first ever win over the All Blacks has had to be digested and divested.

"It is a test of you as a team and as a player. Sometimes there is a mourning period after close losses like that. But, quickly the realisation sets in that it is not benefiting your week's work. You have to get beyond that," said O'Driscoll.

"You have to harness some of the disappointment and use that as motivation when you take the pitch again. The focus has to solely be about the 80 minutes and nothing else matters after that.

"Everyone is looking forward to one final Test match of the year to try to get this monkey off our backs that has been there for 107 years.

"We need to stay with them for as long as we possibly can. The longer you can keep it as a one-score game, they will get a little nervous.

"It is very uncharacteristic to see the All Blacks have a pot at a drop goal after 56 minutes as Dan Carter did last weekend," added O'Driscoll.

"When you know that's happening, there is a Test match there for the taking. We just have to discover that situation again and make the most of it this time around.

"It is definitely on my personal bucket list of things to do. It hasn't been done by an Irish team before. But you can build it up to be bigger than it is. There is no point in daydreaming about what it might be like. It is about focusing on the challenge at hand."

If Ireland can come together as one unified body, like they did last Saturday, and squeeze New Zealand for time and space, if they can make the bigger pitch at Hamilton seem small, if they can corral Aaron Cruden and if a little rain falls, they can go where no Irish side has gone before.

Verdict: Ireland.

New Zealand: I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, SB Williams, H Gear; A Cruden, A Smith; T Woodcock, A Hore, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock, L Messam, S Cane, R McCaw (capt).

Ireland: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (capt), P Wallace, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Tuohy, D Ryan, K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, P O'Mahony.

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