Updated: Thursday, 06 February 2014 03:27 | By Agence France-Presse

Phillips still wary of Irish 'icon' O'Driscoll

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips is looking forward to going up against an "icon of world rugby" in Brian O'Driscoll when the Six Nations champions face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Phillips still wary of Irish 'icon' O'Driscoll

British and Irish Lions rugby player Mike Phillips looks on as he meets with the press in Hong Kong on May 30, 2013 - by Philippe Lopez

O'Driscoll is in his final season before retirement, making it a campaign of 'lasts' for the Ireland great.

This weekend's Lansdowne Road clash has added spice in that Wales coach Warren Gatland, who as Ireland boss gave O'Driscoll his Test debut, dropped the star centre for last year's British and Irish Lions series finale against Australia in Sydney.

The New Zealander, given leave of absence from his 'day job' to coach the combined side, went for an all-Welsh midfield pairing of Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts.

Gatland's move provoked a huge outcry in Ireland, which was barely stilled in some quarters by the fact the Lions won 41-16 to take the series 2-1.

Both Gatland and O'Driscoll have insisted the incident is well and truly behind them, with the Wales boss angered by suggestions, put to him again after last weekend's 23-15 win over Italy, that Saturday's fixture in Dublin is  some sort of 'grudge' match.

Instead, the prevailing mood in the Welsh camp is one of great respect.

"Brian O'Driscoll has been an icon of world rugby and is a gentleman off the pitch," said Phillips, who toured alongside him with the 2009 and 2013 Lions.

"My early memories were of him scoring that try against Australia for the Lions (in 2001) and I eventually went on to play alongside him, which was a massive honour for me.

"He's scored some big tries in his career, and a couple against us as well.

"He's a world-class player. Everyone knows that, and I just hope he has one of those lesser games on the weekend!"

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards, a member, along with Gatland, of the 2009 Lions backroom staff assembled by then head coach Ian McGeechan was also in no doubt of O'Driscoll's quality.

"He's not a huge man, but it is the way he prepares for games, his intensity, his toughness, his mental hardness. You can see he is very, very professional.

"He has been outstanding."

Wales have won three of their last four meetings against Ireland, including a 2011 World Cup quarter-final success in New Zealand.

But last year Ireland denied them a Grand Slam right at the very start of the Six Nations with a 30-22 success at the Millennium Stadium where O'Driscoll was among the try-scorers.

Now Ireland, fresh from a convincing 28-6 home win over Scotland, will be looking for a repeat display.

"We've had some big matches against them over the years. We've had historic matches, and that is what it is all about. It is only good for the game," Phillips added.

"They have threats across the park, and our defence must be on top form to get the victory. All these Irish boys are top-class players."

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