Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll is still a major force in the global game according to the All Blacks.
The Ireland centre will lead his country in Saturday’s clash with the World Champions in Auckland as he builds towards a potential fourth Lions tour next summer.
O’Driscoll has long been one of the sport’s greatest stars but critics had suggested his powers were waning and that the 2013 Lions adventure would be beyond him, especially when he was forced to sit out most of the season with a shoulder and neck problem.
The 33-year-old has since answered his doubters in fine fashion, guiding Leinster to a third Heineken Cup crown and cementing his position as arguably Britain and Ireland’s most complete midfielder.
And while O’Driscoll is undoubtedly nearer the end of his illustrious career than the start, Kiwi duo Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams believe he is still among the very best.
"The older he gets, the better he gets really," was Nonu’s assessment of the man who captained the Lions in New Zealand seven years ago.
"O'Driscoll is going great. He always turns out. He's such a great player that I admire.
"I've been watching him for a long time and he always seems to turn up at the right time, especially for Leinster."
"O'Driscoll is always the danger man. He's done well since he came back," added Williams as he and Nonu get ready to square up with the veteran and his younger Lions team-mate Keith Earls in midfield at Eden Park.
Ireland head to New Zealand’s capital on the back of a disappointing year in which they have already lost to Wales, France, England and the Barbarians, while the All Blacks are preparing for their first fixture since picking up the William Webb Ellis trophy on the same ground back in October.
But while the home side are overwhelming favourites to avoid a first-ever defeat to Ireland and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, Nonu insists they won’t let complacency creep into their game.
"It’s not just another game for them," continued Nonu.
"They've been trying (to beat the All Blacks) for a long time and have come close at times. In 2006 they pushed us hard twice, and again in 2008. They were in the lead but then we climbed back.
"I think there are a lot of older players that are looking at it like they won't be coming back to New Zealand again."