O'Gara reveals he was knocked out in Test


RONAN O’GARA has said he was knocked out in the Lions’ second Test match in South Africa following a tackle on Springbok backrow Pierre Spies. Still reeling from the Spies hit, he went on to miss a tackle on South African centre Jaque Fourie who ran in for a crucial late try.

The Irish outhalf also said he has no regrets about kicking a garryowen in the dying seconds, which subsequently led to a penalty being awarded against him and South Africa clinching the match 28-25. That gave the home side an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

O’Gara was vilified after the match over his decision to keep the ball in play rather than kick to touch and end the match with the teams locked at 25-25. Former England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott said after the match O’Gara should “hang his head in shame”. But O’Gara, who was crushed by being left out of the starting 15 in the pivotal first and second Test matches, said he would take the same option again and try to win the match rather than play for a draw.

“I got knocked out (by Spies) and I tried to get back into the defensive line and missed a tackle,” said O’Gara in his first interview in Ireland since the Lions tour concluded. “I was knocked out and didn’t really know what I was doing. I just remember trying to throw myself at Fourie and I couldn’t see him properly, you know. So I missed him.”

Fourie’s try and Morne Steyn’s conversion put the Springboks three points clear of the Lions until a high tackle on Stephen Jones gave the Welsh outhalf an opportunity to level the scores. It was after that that O’Gara chose to kick a garryowen from deep in Lions territory rather than safely find touch.

“That (decision) doesn’t cost me a second thought because I’d do the exact same tomorrow,” said O’Gara. “People ask me would you not kick it out but it never entered my head to kick the ball out. I couldn’t see what a draw would do for anyone.”

O’Gara spoke of his deep disappointment at being left out of the first-Test starting team despite the fact his form was good. His hurt was further compounded when coach Ian McGeechan declined to replace Stephen Jones in the first Test although the Welshman was having a poor match.

“I was sitting in the meeting fully expecting to be selected. I thought I was in poll position. When it was announced it was a big blow,” he says. “I did expect to come on at half-time in the first Test but that didn’t happen. With 15 minutes to go it didn’t happen. I was saying I’m seeing this game differently from everybody else. Maybe this management had their minds made up that they wanted Stephen. I just got back to my room and thought I don’t think I’m in with a shout here.”