O'Driscoll champing at bit to play All Blacks again
Brian O'Driscoll's enforced layoff after the rugby World Cup has reinvigorated the Ireland captain and he is not ready to call time on his career just yet.
The 33-year-old missed the entire Six Nations after a pinched nerve in his neck was giving him what a team official called a "permanent stinger" in his shoulder and arm and he had to undergo surgery.
"The five months I had off from the World Cup have done me good," O'Driscoll told reporters after he was named to lead his side out for his 118th Ireland test against the world champion All Blacks on Saturday.
"They've freshened me up and allowed all the ailments to ease and have given me a hunger to get back playing (for Ireland). The last time was during the World Cup and that seems like an eternity ago."
When not injured, O'Driscoll is careful to manage his workload with his province Leinster in order to prolong his playing career, at least until after the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia next year.
O'Driscoll said he had learned from 37-year-old former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn, who joined Leinster on a short-term contract and helped them to the European Cup last month after a period of about 15 months of non-stop rugby.
"People are always in a rush to retire you when you get to a certain age," O'Driscoll added when asked if this was his last tour of New Zealand.
"I'm 33 now, but ... the body feels good at the minute ... and one thing I did learn from Brad Thorn was if you're listening to your body and you feel good then go with that."
Despite having played 117 tests for Ireland and six for the Lions, O'Driscoll said he was still learning how to play the game better.
"You're constantly trying to evolve and make yourself a better player and if that means taking things from another player's game then so be it," he said. "There's no patent on certain plays and moves within the sport we play."
Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks in the 107-years since they began playing tests against each other and O'Driscoll said the challenge ahead of his young team when the series begins on Saturday was massive.
"It is always an enormous challenge and one you look forward to," he added. "This is the pinnacle, playing international sport against then world champions. How would you not be excited by that?
"If you're struggling to get up for that then it's time to hang the boots up." (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)