He knows them better than most - and Brian O'Driscoll has issued a warning to his former Irish team-mates about the All Blacks.

"They are licking their wounds," the former Irish and Lions skipper said. "There is no doubt they are coming ready."

O'Driscoll said his warning was based on the body language shown by some of the All Blacks players obliged to attend World Rugby's annual awards night at the London Hilton Hotel earlier this week. He noted that aside from Jamie Heaslip's stunning finish of Ireland's demolition of Italy earning him try of the year, the awards were totally dominated by the All Blacks. But he added the greater lesson lay in how the players collected their silverware with "grimaced grins".

"I heard a lot from them because they picked up a lot of awards. That says a lot about their team. That wasn't New Zealand as they saw themselves ten days ago.


"They want to put that right. We are going to see a different team. We are going to have to produce a better performance ourselves. There is no reason to think that we don't have a bigger performance too."

O'Driscoll, who was inducted into World Rugby's Hall of Fame this week and is the second most capped test player of all time behind Richie McCaw, backed Ireland's Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt to ensure the men in green are not daunted by the anticipated New Zealand black-lash.

"Joe would have pulled from the game apart with a fine-tooth comb and he would have picked out eight or ten things that we could improve on," O'Driscoll said.

"It wouldn't have been, 'Let's have a look at the great tries we scored.' It would have been about, 'Look at the errors you made.'

"System errors. Defensive errors. Lost ball. Inaccuracy at the ruck. All those things. So he will plant the seed in all the players' head that, 'Look, we could all improve by five or ten or 15pc', without a shadow of a doubt.

"And if they think that and do manage to do that we will be a handful to deal with."

Despite his celebrated career, O'Driscoll never played in a winning team against the All Blacks despite 12 attempts with Ireland and one with the British and Irish Lions.

He said to be in Chicago as a spectator was a unique experience as it was the first time he could remember not being at a game as a fit or injured player.

"It was a very, very memorable day," he reveals. "It was lovely to become a fan. There is a disconnect between ex-players and the team for a couple of years.

"You are in limbo a bit. It was probably the game that reattached me as a fan again and getting genuinely excited about finally getting that monkey off our backs."

Alongside famed Irish actor Liam Neeson, O'Driscoll is now playing a key role in Ireland's bid to win hosting rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. He said the win over the All Blacks had boosted Ireland's rugby credibility.

"It is not doing us any harm at all," O'Driscoll said.

"I am sure World Rugby want the host nation to do well. It tends to be a positive even if it didn't happen last time.

"But it definitely helps in getting credibility on the world stage when you have opponents coming and realising Ireland are no soft touch.

"But it is more about what we can deliver as a team on the welcome, on the logistics, on the stadia and on the packed out, bums on seat.

"And it is about all those small things and how players and tourists will go away with phenomenal memories."

He added that home advantage could help Ireland reach the last four of a World Cup for the first time, although he is confident that may happen before then, in Japan next time out.

"I think in three years' time we will feel we will get to a semi-final, even if you obviously have to wait for draws and things to come out," he said.

"We have got a very good squad at the moment, we have a great coaching ticket - next time is always the best time to get to a semi-final.

"But if we didn't manage to do it in Japan and we got the World Cup 2023 it would absolutely help our cause.

"I am a glass-half-full sort of person so I hope we will already have gotten to a semi-final by 2023."