O’Gara advises Burns to dust himself down and get ready to go again

La Rochelle coach expects Sexton to be fit to face a France guided by dangerman Dupont

Ronan O'Gara has been there, done it, bought the t-shirt and both missed and executed penalties to the corner. He's had decades of harnessing and coaching the skill and to a degree he has some sympathy for Billy Burns after overcooking that final penalty to the corner.

Hence, when asked what he’d have said to the player yesterday morning he laughed and countered: “Am I the coach or his team-mate? It is very different.”

Donning his coach’s hat, he said: “For me, it is a very interesting subject because the corner flag is irrelevant nowadays.” The five metres to the line should allow for a “massive margin of error for kickers from the 30 metre range to the corner flag”.

Beyond that is, as he put it, the water in Augusta.

“You know there that it is competition over, tournament over if you are trying to get down in two or whatever, to use that analogy. Even if the five metres is the new corner flag, it is okay to get a strike you are not happy with if the lineout is 10 metres out from the line, but it is just the risk reward.

“You have to work with your kickers in terms of understanding that actually when the pressure comes on, you don’t want the target to feel small.

“It is a surprise?” O’Gara asked rhetorically of Burns’ miss. “Not really, because he is an inexperienced outhalf looking to give his team a lineout close to the line. He went for it, he failed. I’ve done that loads of times with pressure moments early in my career. Shit happens, you just have to get on with it.”

In any event, despite Johnny Sexton departing 10 minutes from time after Justin Tipuric's knee caught him on the head, O'Gara believes the captain will start, given the seven-day turnaround to playing France on Sunday, even if he doesn't return to training until Friday.

“All systems for me point to Johnny starting and then who is going to be on the bench for him.”

In that sense, little has changed.

“Johnny is the number one, it’s underneath that. Who is pushing through? Not having European Cup games is damaging the younger players in the provinces because they’re not getting the game time. It’s hard to pluck someone from third-choice in your province to a national scenario.

"There is a pecking order in all the provinces, it seems, the outlier being Paddy Jackson who is over in London Irish but that isn't the fifth province like it used to be so he isn't in the debate at the minute. So it is either going to be Billy Burns or Ross Byrne for this game for me."

There might, O'Gara added, be an argument for trying Harry Byrne against Italy.

“The criteria for selection for the Italy game is very different because everyone knows that the result isn’t at stake. But what does that say to Ross Byrne then? That’s the dilemma of managing your plans and knowing how to get the best out of them.”

France have replaced a 22-year-old outhalf, the injured Romain Ntamack, with a 21-year-old in Matthieu Jalibert, with another 22-year-old, Louis Carbonel, on the bench, but O'Gara rejects the notion that French rugby is innately more daring in giving younger players their chance.

Smart team

"No I don't think so. The ProD2 has improved immeasurably in the last three years and there's a Top 14 with 14 teams and a roster of three outhalves in every team, so there's just more opportunities, there's more games. Over there [Ireland] the model is that you're contracted to the union so playing for Ireland is the most important thing. After that is the Heineken Cup and after that it's the Pro14, but in terms of the Pro14 teams' effectiveness in creating Test players, I'd have serious doubts about that."

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, O’Gara believes Ireland “are a smart team and they know how to pick weaknesses in other teams. But the difference this time is, for me, the best player in the world is going to be around the ball so often and that’s a big advantage”.

“Dupont is deadly dangerous, but if you keep an eye on him and leave Jalibert in a one-on-one, he will beat you. He is a better runner than everyone else in France. He scores a try out of nothing every week. Yeah, you can find weaknesses in his defensive game, but for people who think rugby is becoming boring, have a look at him,” said O’Gara of Jalibert.

“This guy’s acceleration is something else. He’s as close as you’ll get to Beauden Barrett, even though he wouldn’t have that freakish acceleration that he has, but this guy is good, and as we know, he is only going to get better because he has got over that five caps where everything is a blur for you as a halfback – everything goes a bit too quickly.”

* As part of Aviva's launch of the Safe To Dream Team, O'Gara and the UL Bohemians, Munster and Irish Rugby International, Eimear Considine have teamed up with Aviva Ireland to launch the Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub