Six Nations 2014: Brian O'Driscoll calls on next generation of Ireland players to go on and break his imminent Test appearance record

O'Driscoll will likely surpass George Gregan's all-time record this weekend when he runs out against Italy to earn his 140th cap

Brian O'Driscoll has challenged Ireland's stars of tomorrow to break his all-time Test appearances record.

The talismanic centre will take his final Dublin turn in an Ireland shirt in Saturday's RBS Six Nations clash with Italy.

The 35-year-old will bow out of international rugby altogether in Paris when Ireland close their Six Nations against France on Saturday, March 15.

Long-time British & Irish Lion O'Driscoll will surpass George Gregan's world-record 139-cap haul against the Azzurri this weekend, taking his Ireland tally to 132.

The Leinster stalwart has already eased past Ronan O'Gara's Ireland caps record, and fully expects Ireland trailblazers of tomorrow to eclipse his total in the fullness of time.

"I'm sure in time it will be broken, yes, there's always scope for guys to break records," said O'Driscoll.

"All going well, hopefully I'll get the record this weekend I'm sure it will be broken another time.

"Lots of guys now are over the 100-cap mark and still playing, and still playing well.

"If guys look after themselves and maintain their fitness for 15 years I think you will see the 150-cap mark broken.

"I can't see it being a bad thing, someone being consistently good, enough to stay in the competition environment, for 14 or 15 years.

"So I would definitely say I encourage it."

O'Driscoll's future cap-haul predictions are backed up by the weight of numbers Italy will bring to Dublin on Saturday.

Peerless number eight and captain Sergio Parisse already boasts 104 caps, and is still only 30.

Cult figure front-rower Martin Castrogiovanni holds the same number of Italy appearances, at the age of 32.

Lock Marco Bortolami is another 32-year-old to sit proudly past the century-mark.

Italy's vast experience among totemic leaders and inspirational figures underlines O'Driscoll's wariness at facing a side who have lost all three Six Nations clashes so far this term.

Ireland remain hopeful Johnny Sexton will shrug off his thumb ligament injury to be fit to face Italy.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has hinted he could rest the Racing Metro fly-half, instead fielding Ulster playmaker Paddy Jackson.

O'Driscoll admitted he hopes Schmidt selects his strongest-available starting XV, especially as Ireland can still steal the Six Nations title.

"Any time Johnny Sexton is available I like playing in the team with him, because he's that good," said O'Driscoll.

"And it's hard to, maybe in some quarters a rest would be good, but it's taking one eye off the Italians.

"If he's available you'd be hopeful to play your strongest team, and he is definitely a part of that."

PA

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