The 23-year-old has also missed last year's RBS 6 Nations after picking up a serious injury against Australia in the 2009 autumn internationals.
But O'Driscoll has backed Fitzgerald to deliver against Azzurri declaring his Leinster teammate is straining at the leash in training.
He said: "When he's really booming with confidence he's a very, very dangerous player. Both as an attacking player but as a strategic player as well, he can mix his game well at full-back.
"I suppose like anyone who hasn't played a huge amount of rugby over the last couple of months, you just encourage him to do the simple things well and not try and do the amazing (things).
"That will eventually come as the game unfolds, but early on just starting out well and doing what he's done, both provincially and internationally, any time he's been in the jersey.
"He knows himself what's expected of him, and I don't envisage any issues but he's certainly a pleasure to play with from an attacking point of view, because he has that innate ability to break tackles and offload.
"Whenever you can get a second touch, having given him a pass, it gives yourself an opportunity or it gives the rest of the team an opportunity to continue an attacking play."