Ireland are exuding a quiet confidence that they can cause a stunning upset against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday. In 20 attempts, stretching back over 103 years, the Irish have never beaten the All Blacks.
They have come close, most notably in 1992 and in 2006 after Munster had won their first Heineken Cup.
Munster reclaimed the continental crown last month and have a strong presence in the Ireland XV - seven of the eight forwards play for the Limerick-based province - while Magners League winners Leinster are also well represented.
Just two of Ireland’s starting XV have missed out on silverware this season - Ulster duo Tommy Bowe and Paddy Wallace, who is named in place of the injured Luke Fitzgerald.
Add in the fact New Zealand are in a post-World Cup transitional period - with almost half the squad that travelled to France last year either retired, discarded or playing in the northern hemisphere and therefore not considered - and there is every reason for the Irish team to be buoyant.
“We feel if we get our game right we have as good a chance as ever,” captain Brian O’Driscoll said after the team’s final training session before the match at the Westpac Stadium.
“We genuinely felt we had a good chance last time round as well and capitulated a little after 60 minutes, particularly in the first Test.
“We feel as though we certainly have the firepower and the capabilities, it’s just a matter of making sure we put out an 80 or 90 minute performance – whatever it takes.”
The Irish have played down the loss of Fitzgerald, who has failed to overcome an ankle problem, which has yet again robbed fans of the chance to see the exciting youngster lining up alongside his captain.
The pair had been due to combine in the midfield against the Barbarians before tragic circumstances intervened.
But O’Driscoll, who missed the Barbarians match due to the death of a close friend, is confident the introduction of Wallace, who played at fly-half against the Baa-Baas, will not hinder Ireland.
In fact, the captain believes Wallace’s versatility may give them an edge where the pair are expected to mix up their play rather than stick to traditional 12 and 13 roles.
“We have been mixing and matching,” added O’Driscoll. “Paddy is a great footballer he’s a great versatility to him. He can play 10, 12, 13 and full-back if needed.
“Being a footballer is being a footballer. Often it can just be a number on your back that you start off with, but you find yourself in various different positions around the phases. So I would think that’s the way we’ll be playing.
“The one thing is that Paddy is a great passer, a great guy at putting others into holes and hopefully he’ll show some of the form that he did in the Baa-Baas game last week.”