Ten and out as O'Gara is dropped from squad
When the Ireland rugby team gather for training in Carton House this morning Ronan O’Gara will not be numbered among them for the first time in 13 years.
The most capped Irish player (128) and record points scorer (1,083) was omitted from yesterday’s 32-man squad by head coach Declan Kidney ahead of the France game in Dublin next Saturday evening. Three outhalves – Jonathan Sexton, Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan – have been named.
Sexton is nursing a grade two hamstring tear, suffered against England on February 10th, and remains unlikely to recover in time, leaving Jackson, as the incumbent, in pole position to start against the French.
The 21-year-old landed seven from nine place kicks in Ulster’s 29-all draw with Treviso at Ravenhill last Friday night. O’Gara started for Munster in Saturday’s draw with the Ospreys in Limerick.
The decision to remove O’Gara from the reckoning also represents an endorsement of Madigan’s outstanding form for Leinster this season.
Just as Jackson displaced O’Gara as second choice outhalf after the England defeat, Madigan appears to have moved into third, possibly even second place in the international pecking order. More will be revealed when Kidney announces his starting XV tomorrow.
There was no comment from any member of the Irish management last night. Nor was there any mention of O’Gara in a two paragraph release that included the 32 names in alphabetical order.
When contacted for comment about O’Gara’s exclusion by The Irish Times, a team spokesman described it as a “selection decision.” O’Gara, who turns 36 on Thursday, was unavailable for comment last night.
The Cork man’s national contract is up this summer and Munster have yet to reach an agreement with him for a one year extension.
It now appears that O’Gara’s last appearance for his country will be the 12-8 defeat to Scotland on February 24th when he replaced Jackson, after the Ulster man only converted one from four kicks at goal.
O’Gara’s first game for Ireland was also against Scotland on February 19th, 2000. Before being replaced by David Humphreys that day, he landed two conversions and two penalties in the 44-22 victory.
There were other changes in personnel announced yesterday with Leinster outside centre Eoin O’Malley a surprising promotion, not due to a lack of ability but he has only recently returned from a knee injury.
Ulster’s Darren Cave and Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw were both ruled out with concussion so Luke Fitzgerald is expected to provide cover should Rob Kearney go down. Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble have also been recalled.
The secondrow department is another major concern with Mike McCarthy (medical knee ligament strain) and Donnacha Ryan (shoulder bruising) named but both are considered doubtful.
McCarthy has not played since the England game but was running and more importantly changing direction in recent days. Ryan had suffered from back spasms but recovered to face Scotland before injuring his shoulder in Murrayfield.
It means the fit again Dan Tuohy has become a viable option to win a sixth cap, which would be a first Six Nations appearance.
Ulster’s naturalised South African Robbie Diack has also been called up while Tom Court is dropped once again as Cian Healy’s suspension was reduced on appeal by one week.
Meanwhile, Dimitri Szarzewski has been ruled out of Saturday’s game with thigh and shoulder problems, Guilhem Guirado replaces him.