O'Callaghan: We respect NZ
Muster lock wary of All Blacks forward power
Last Updated: 04/06/08 3:44pm
Ireland and Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan insists New Zealand still have a formidable forward line despite the absence of a number of familiar faces.
"We've always respected the All Blacks forwards."
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The Ireland eight that pack down against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday include seven Heineken Cup winners and Jamie Heaslip - a Magners League winner with Leinster.
With such a high quality unit, the Irish fly to the southern hemisphere brimming with confidence that the upcoming clash in the New Zealand capital could see the tourists end a 20-game winless streak against the All Blacks.
However, even with the absence of front-rowers Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver, and enforcers Jerry Collins and Keith Robinson, O'Callaghan claims the Irish do not believe the All Blacks have lost their edge up front.
"We've always respected the All Blacks forwards," he said.
"Other people might run their mouth off on stuff like that but we certainly wouldn't.
"I think teams that perceive themselves to be bigger and stronger are going to make an issue out of it but it wouldn't be from us."
Two years ago Ireland let two golden chances to beat New Zealand for the first time slip through their fingers in Hamilton and Auckland.
But O'Callaghan is confident that if the Irish get themselves in a similar position on Saturday, the players now have the mental strength to get across the line.
"If you ask any team, winning is kind of contagious, you get used to winning really close games. In the last 10 minutes, when you've been winning all season, you believe you can do it.
"That has happened to us a bit at Munster and hopefully we can carry it on into (this match). There is a self-belief now that we can win tight games.
"Hopefully, if Saturday is close, we might have the mental reserve where we didn't before.
"You look back two years ago with eight minutes to go we were two or three points up and you don't get many opportunities like that against the All Blacks. You've got to take them when they come about."