Irish Rugby
O'Driscoll ready to return
ESPNscrum Staff
August 8, 2011
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates his side's victory over England, Ireland v England, Six Nations, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland, March 19, 2011
O'Driscoll will be a key part of Ireland's plans for the forthcoming World Cup © Getty Images

Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll has declared himself fit and raring to go ahead of Saturday's Test with France in Bordeaux.

Ireland manager Paul McNaughton stated last week that O'Driscoll's first appearance this month was likely to be against France on Saturday week. The 32-year-old has been struggling with a neck/shoulder injury and missed the weekend's 10-6 defeat by Scotland.

It is doubtful he will be picked for Saturday's trip to Bordeaux for the first part of the double-header against France, but he is keen to be involved as soon as possible. "It's rare enough as an older generation player that you're 100% fit - there's always something niggling," O'Driscoll said. "But I'm feeling pretty fit at the moment. I've enjoyed the training camp.

"When I get onto the pitch I'll be ready for it. I'm in as much need of match practice as any other player. Until I get to play a few games I won't really be at full speed."

The defeat at Murrayfield, sealed by a late try from Scotland centre Joe Ansbro - had pre-season stamped all over it - but O'Driscoll insists it was an encouraging start to the month. "The guys did extremely well," said the Lions and Leinster centre. "We were a bit disappointed with our attacking options but defensively, other than the score at the end, we were very solid.

"There were some huge positives to take out of the game and some guys put their hands up and caused some serious headaches for (coach) Declan Kidney. It's tough to sit out an international, whether that's because you've been injured or you haven't been selected.

"You want to be out there while there's someone else on the pitch in your number jersey hoping to impress the coaches."

Ireland face a busy schedule this month consisting of four internationals and a fifth game against Connacht, while some players will also turn out in pre-season matches for their provinces. The hectic warm-up to the World Cup is in response to 2007 when the team arrived in France undercooked and paid the price with an embarrassing group exit.

"These games are very important. It was well documented that we weren't match-hardened four years ago," said O'Driscoll. "As a result of that we stumbled in the first few games. We want to make sure we are raring to go when we take on the USA in the first game.

"Everyone in the 30 will need some pitch time so that they're ready to be called up if need be."

Ireland face the most strenuous build-up of all the northern hemisphere teams, mirroring the workload - in quantity if not quality - of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. With a reduced-format Tri-Nations being staged at the moment, a debate has raged over whether the heavyweights will be fatigued when the World Cup eventually starts.

"You can look at the fact they've been playing all season in two ways," said O'Driscoll. "Maybe they have a little bit of fatigue while we're very fresh, but also you could say they are match-hardened when we haven't played much. The level of competition there will be tough, but they seem to be using a rotational system to rest certain players."

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