DUBLIN (AP) — Injured Ireland center Brian O'Driscoll is sure he will be available for one last crack at the All Blacks on Sunday.
However, his backline faces changes with winger Fergus McFadden ruled out and fullback Rob Kearney a major doubt. Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton also remains an uncertainty. O'Driscoll has been carrying a strained calf since late September. An attempt was made to replace him in the first half of the 32-15 loss to Australia on Saturday, and O'Driscoll, retiring after this season, didn't hide his disgust. He was off the field for only seven minutes. He continued not to play well, though neither did any of the Irish.
He's determined to line up against New Zealand at Lansdowne Road for a 14th time, hoping finally for a win. "I could feel (the calf) at the weekend a bit but I managed to see out the game," O'Driscoll said on Tuesday. "But there are lots of times I haven't played at 100 percent and, all going well, if I handle the week well I shouldn't be far off 100 percent come the weekend.
"It's not an excuse for not playing brilliantly. In plenty of other games I've managed injuries." Ireland summoned Darren Cave to cover for O'Driscoll, whose training was limited, and also brought in Felix Jones for fullback Rob Kearney, who dislocated a rib against the Wallabies.
Sexton booted Ireland to within three points of Australia but strained his hamstring just before halftime and didn't return after the break. Scans late Saturday indicated his injury wasn't as bad as feared, and he will be given as long as possible to come right, manager Mick Kearney said.
McFadden broke a bone in his right hand and will miss out. Despite the injury list, Ireland's mediocre performances against the Wallabies and Samoa this month, and its winless record against New Zealand, O'Driscoll believed they can ruin the visitors' undefeated year.
"If you catch them on an off day and things go right, it can happen for us," he said. "We'll put ourselves in the same position, treating this game like one we can win. "I'm an eternal optimist. No one will give us a chance, but that's OK with us."
Meanwhile, New Zealand will be without centurions Dan Carter and Tony Woodcock, whose injuries in the 30-22 win over England will keep them out of the last match on tour. Carter hurt his right Achilles and Woodcock his hamstring, leading both to be replaced in the first half at Twickenham.
Backup flyhalves Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett will therefore be in the matchday 23, and the loosehead prop options include Wyatt Crockett and Jeff Toomaga-Allen.