Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll believes the time is right for his side to go Down Under and record the country’s first ever win against the All Blacks.
Less than 12 months after his British & Irish Lions tour was ended by a spear tackle in Christchurch, O’Driscoll will revisit the ‘land of the long white cloud’ with an Ireland side on a revenge mission of its own.
O’Driscoll will lead Ireland in their summer tour opener against New Zealand in Hamilton on Sunday June 11.
A dislocated shoulder prevented the Leinster centre from lining up when the sides last met in November – Graham Henry’s All Blacks ran in five tries in a comfortable 45-7 win at Lansdowne Road.
But with O’Driscoll and Munster lock Paul O’Connell back fit, the Triple Crown winners look a totally different proposition.
Buoyed by Munster’s European Cup success and Ulster’s Celtic League title win last weekend, O’Driscoll rubbished remarks that Ireland’s three-match tour is ill-timed at the end of a nine-month season.
The 27-year-old, who kicked two drop goals on Ireland’s last tour to New Zealand in 2002, said: "I think you could take the view that we need a break.
"But alternatively, you could take the view that we’ve won a huge amount, so why not push ourselves one step further and go and do something that no other Irish side has done in New Zealand – win a Test match?
"These tours are organised years in advance, so it’s not a case of it being sprung on us. We’ve known about it for the whole season.
"A lot of the boys are feeling fresh – we’re in really good form. Munster and Ulster’s successes have rubbed off on the rest of the squad and the boys are really looking forward to going down there and having a real crack at New Zealand."
Memories of the heavy defeats dished out to Sir Clive Woodward’s Lions last summer are still fresh in the memory, but O’Driscoll reckons Ireland’s continuity will stand them in good stead over the coming weeks.
"Hopefully we’ll bring the success of the Triple Crown – and the unity that that success produced – with us and give it our best shot.
"I don’t see a better time to go down and turn over the Kiwis than this opportunity because of the success we’ve achieved this year."
Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan can almost report a clean bill of health for his 30-man squad.
With the touring party camped in Limerick for the week, he said: "The only concern at the moment is Munster centre John Kelly, who picked up a knock (to his left shoulder) last weekend.
"We’re going to give John every chance to make it. We’ve brought Anthony Horgan into the panel just in case it doesn’t work out for John.
"Taking a global view of the squad, we’ve a pretty good injury profile. I think we’ve often left on tours like this with a lot of key players absent through injury so I think we’ve been quite fortunate in that respect this year."