Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

O'Driscoll anticipates centre tussle at Twickenham

Brian O'Driscoll believes England's new-look centre partnership is beginning to thrive.

The Ireland captain will lock horns with Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait in tomorrow's crucial RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.

O'Driscoll, who will start alongside long-time Leinster and Ireland team-mate Gordon D'Arcy, admires the balance of the partnership.

Tait is finally being given a run in his preferred position of outside centre while Flutey has established himself as the long-term solution to the number 12 conundrum.

"They're both very good players, but both are very different," said O'Driscoll.

"Riki's a second distributor while Mathew Tait is very much a strike runner who has played a bit on the wing as well.

"He's a very quick guy with good feet who has matured.

"They've started up a bit of a partnership which is only going to get better the more they play together."

Ireland have won five of their previous six matches against England but were thumped 33-10 on their last visit to Twickenham in 2008 - Eddie O'Sullivan's last match in charge.

Martin Johnson's side have dispatched Wales and Italy so far but were stung by heavy criticism for their one-dimensional gameplan against the Azzurri.

O'Driscoll, however, has full respect for a side he insists is never easy to beat.

"Irrespective of how well they've been playing, England have a huge pool of players to choose from," he said.

"England are never a bad side. Any time I've played against them and won, it's usually been by one score or less.

"That just shows you have to be on your game to beat them.

"Two years ago at Twickenham they were 10 points down and scored 33 unanswered points to win comfortably.

"They're starting to build some confidence and have two wins from two matches."

O'Driscoll paid tribute to John Hayes, who will become the first player to win 100 caps for Ireland - beating his skipper to the mark by one match.

"John's contribution to Irish rugby has been huge," he said.

"He's been a huge component of Irish teams over the decade and a cornerstone of our scrum.

"He's managed to pick up four Trip Crowns and a Grand Slam along the way.

"It's pretty impressive for anyone to play for their country 100 times. He'll have all the boys behind him tomorrow."