O'Gara's experience an essential asset for must-win assignment in Murrayfield
Ronan O'Gara has looked a bit rusty since his return from injury but he is a mentally tough guy who can handle any situation. photograph: dan sheridan/inpho
From The Blindside:Some games are made for experimentation. Sometimes the circumstances leave a coach with no choice. Funny enough, I was nearly involved in the most famous one from an Ireland point of view. When Warren Gatland threw five new caps into the Scotland game in 2000 after a disastrous defeat against England, one of them was Simon Easterby. The previous week, I had been down to play in the ‘A’ international against England but I got injured in the Heineken Cup for Munster and I had to pull out of the squad.
Next thing you know, Simon had a stormer against England, got picked against Scotland along with Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer, Shane Horgan and John Hayes and played a big role in the 44-22 win. They beat Italy in the next game and then went to win in Paris a fortnight later. The experiment worked big time.
This is different. Back then, Gatland had no choice but to throw caution to the wind and completely change things around. His team had been completely outclassed against England and if he didn’t do something drastic, the whole championship would have been a disaster. That’s just not the case this time around. The performance against England 10 days ago was disappointing but it wasn’t anything compared to the one in 2000. There’s no doubt it was a backward step but I don’t go with this idea it was a huge one.
People need to have a bit of perspective here. A very good England team beat an Ireland team that was short key frontline players like Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe going into the match and lost Simon Zebo and Johnny Sexton during it. Since then, Gordon D’Arcy, Mike McCarthy and Cian Healy have been ruled out as well.
That’s well over 300 caps gone from the team through circumstances beyond the coach’s control. I don’t think there’s a coach in the world who wouldn’t make it his priority to get some experience into the side given that situation.
The vultures are out for Declan Kidney and for Ronan O’Gara but I honestly don’t see how any coach could decide that this is the game to be throwing in Paddy Jackson or Ian Madigan. We are not a country with enough depth in our playing pool to be able to lose that amount of players – four or five of them would be probable starters for the Lions, remember – and just ignore it and carry on. You have to play the situation.
Experimenting here with a young outhalf isn’t what the situation calls for. Jackson and Madigan are totally untried at this level. They’re going to be very good players but this isn’t the game for either of them.
I spent a lot of last week in the north and Jackson is so highly rated by the rugby people up there. They just think he’s going to be a superstar. Leinster people say the same about Madigan, who is playing great stuff in the Rabo for them at the minute.