Ronan O’Gara believes Johnny Sexton will be fine for Murrayfield
Racing 92 defence coach remains upbeat despite defeat to Munster at Thomond Park
Racing 92 defence coach Ronan O’Gara during the French side’s Champions Cup game against Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.
Sounds like Johnny Sexton will feature for Ireland at Murrayfield on February 4th.
Ronan O’Gara spoke to his former nemesis, and now good friend, in the immediate aftermath of Sexton’s latest injury, a bruised calf, which forced him out of Leinster’s 24-all draw in Castres on Friday night.
“He’s fine,” said the Racing 92 defence coach. “He had a bruise and got another knock on it. Thankfully I don’t think it’s a tear. If you get a knock on the calf it’s completely different than a stretch in the calf. He seems confident and I have every reason to believe he will be fine.”
O’Gara was holding court late Saturday night in his former fiefdom following an encouraging but ultimately failed bid to deny Munster a home quarter-final.
“I’d have just loved if Dan [Carter] was playing, from a selfish point of view,” said the 39-year-old of Racing’s decision to rest the All Black genius for this 22-10 defeat.
“There was some serious kick space in the back field which Munster will have to address urgently because if it was executed you would kill them there. The other side of me would have hoped if we were going on both fronts the world’s best outhalf could have made a different game of it.”
Still, Munster needed to survive a first-quarter bombardment from the heaviest pack of ball carriers they have faced all season before their first points came courtesy of a twisting Simon Zebo on 36 minutes.
Following Racing’s humiliating 32-7 defeat to Munster in Paris on January 7th, joint head coaches, Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers, turned the reins over to O’Gara.
“I’ve been washing my hands by saying I’m an assistant coach but I have a big input there, I have a big role and I am very happy with my role, I am very proud of what I do there.
“But I got control, not of the week, but of the build-up. I must say I enjoyed it.”
And his key message? “Honesty of performance. That was all I stressed. What is it? Sixty games and four teams have escaped here with a win so I asked them: Is it realistic to win? A few of them said maybe. I said the goal from my point of view is we can look each other in the eye afterwards and have a beer and get on with preparation [for Lyon].”
O’Gara is not the first coach this season to highlight the refereeing of Marius Mitrea, who confounded most viewers by disallowing Conor Murray’s seemingly legitimate try after 27 minutes.
“We gave it a good shot but five times the Italian referee penalised us for side entry in attack situations. The better team won, I’ve no problem, but I don’t understand why someone of that standard is refereeing a crucial game.”
O’Gara, for the umpteenth time, dismissed suggestions that he was ready to return to Ireland in a head coaching capacity.
“If you want to coach Munster you have to be a really good coach. I’m not a good coach. I have to work on that and go see how other teams and other cultures work. Then, when I get that right, I might be in a position to put my hand up but I got to earn that.
“I look on this coaching game as a marathon. I don’t look upon it as a quick outcome.”
O’Gara stopped well short of comparing Rassie Erasmus’s current squad with the 2006 and 2008 Munster sides that conquered Europe but, in the same breath, he refused to play down what is happening in the province this season.
“It’s incredible. Rewind four months ago no one was interested in this team. This team had lost its identity and look at them now.
“They’ll be hard to stop. [Erasmus] is obviously really good at what he does. Everyone has a clarity about their roles.
“They are a different side with [Francis] Saili in it,” he added. “He just looks awesome with ball in hand, he attracts three defenders every time, so keeping him fit and along with Keith Earls, when he plays, they are a different team. The two of them combined together could be deadly.”