O'Driscoll faces uncomfortable realities in Auckland

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The Independent Online

In the run-up to today's meeting with New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland the Ireland captain, Brian O'Driscoll, stated the obvious. "We don't want to be another one of those sides that goes well in the first Test, is narrowly beaten and then capitulates in the second Test," he said. Well, who does?

Unfortunately the Irish, beaten up and tired out after a long season and a profoundly frustrating 34-23 loss in Hamilton last week, may have no choice in the matter. Graham Henry has tinkered with his team again, so the tourists will not face a full-strength All Black side, but the 15 men who will take the field for the hosts still boast some frightening attacking talent.

"There will come a time in games when you have to run with the football to win," added O'Driscoll's coach, Eddie O'Sullivan. He meant that his own, talented back line, led by O'Driscoll, would have a full part to play, but at a ground where New Zealand rarely lose the running may very well be made by Messrs Muliaina, Howlett, Rokocoko and McAlister. Among others.

Keeping in the spirit of things, O'Driscoll added: "The All Blacks are certainly going to be better than they were." Go to the top of the class.

Still, Ireland's situation - next week's one-off Test against Australia in Perth must be about as welcome a prospect as extensive dental work, minus anaesthetic - seems positively peachy compared to the immediate plight of the Scots in Port Elizabeth, where they face South Africa this afternoon.

Jason White's men were boshed, battered and belaboured into submission in Durban last week, losing 36-16. The same monstrous Springbok pack awaits today and, in their heavy-handed way, Os du Randt's big strong boys are every bit as effective as the All Black backs.

The lock Alastair Kellock, No 8 Jon Petrie, hooker Dougie Hall and tight-head prop Craig Smith are the happy few summoned unto the Springbok-sized breaches left in the Scots' pack last weekend. Understandably, their coach Frank Hadden - who said that "this is the biggest pack we can muster to minimise the gap" - chose to seek some unlikely solace in the absence of South Africa's first-choice centres.

In Buenos Aires, Wales face a fully tooled-up Argentina, Felipe Contepomi having finished his medical exams and taken his place in the centres. Facing him for Gareth Jenkins' young team, 27-25 losers in Patagonia last week, is the 20-year-old Osprey James Hook, a fly-half facing the toughest test of his life while out of position. Lucky him.