O'Driscoll and Ireland won't take Italy lightly
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll insists they will not underestimate Italy's challenge in their crunch Pool C clash on Sunday.
O'Driscoll will play his 117th Test when he leads Ireland at the Otago Stadium and believes matches with the Azzurri have become progressively harder in the past several years.
"They've been getting harder and harder in the past four or five years," he said. "The scorelines have been getting closer and closer. We really had to pull it out of the bag to beat them in Rome this year."
"We have to make sure we're on our game. We always thought we would have to beat Italy on the final day of pool play to qualify and that's how it's turned out. We have to be able to deal with a match of this magnitude."
"The Italians have played better with each game. They've added variety. They're not afraid to add width as well as go through the guts. They're very well organised on defence and they're harder to break down than they used to be."
O'Driscoll sat out the game against Russia last Sunday and added he cannot wait to get back on to the pitch.
"I'm champing at the bit, to be honest," he said. "It's always hard sitting games out. You always want to play in any Test, to wear the green jersey."
O'Driscoll will renew his centre partnership with the burly Gordon D'Arcy. It will be the 46th time they have combined together for Ireland - a world record.
Leinster centre O'Driscoll relished the prospect of playing in the new roofed Dunedin stadium stadium but added a note of caution.
"We're delighted to finally get a chance to play with a dry ball as it's rained in two of our previous three games. But it doesn't mean you can immediately switch into a wide game. You have to earn the right to go wide," he said.
O'Driscoll has been troubled by a niggling shoulder problem but said it was a matter of managing the injury.
"I don't go hell for leather throughout the week in training. I look after it, and I feel good," he said.
O'Driscoll did not think the 15-6 win over Australia on September 17 had unduly increased the pressure on Ireland.
"We look forward to that element of pressure and trying to deal with it. I don't see how winning games increases the pressure on you," he said.
"If anything we're a bit more relaxed in our skins after our performance against Australia. But we know that it's win or bust against Italy."