The country has been bathed in sunshine for the last few days and there is a sunny outlook for Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara as he expects to be fit for Saturday week’s Heineken Cup final against Toulouse.
IrishRugby.ie caught up with Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara at a sponsors’ launch in Cork on Thursday, to get his thoughts on Munster’s build-up to the Heineken Cup final against Toulouse, injury worries in the squad, the approach to the game and Paul O’Connell’s influence.
RONAN O’GARA ON…
ON HIS ANKLE INJURY:
“I came off against Glasgow (in our last game) and it blew up on Saturday night. I got a scan on Sunday and the consultant wasn’t able to read it until Monday morning. In the physio’s eyes, everything looked alright, but he was fearful there might be a chip in the bone. There wasn’t much sleep Sunday night.
“It’s just been a case of rehabbing it this week, testing it out. I have strained ligaments but I’d be pretty surprised if I wasn’t fully functional by next Monday. I haven’t tried kicking with it yet.”
ON THE DANGER OF PICKING UP INJURIES BEFORE THE FINAL:
“It’s always in the back of our minds that we have something else to play for, is it a mental weakness on our behalf that we can’t treat the Magners League games as seriously as the Heineken Cup games? I’m not too sure but I expect that we’ll see the fully-tuned composition of our team for Saturday week.
“I don’t think it’s ever a fear of injury, always throughout our campaigns when the gun is put to our head we’re a different team, at the game over in Wasps we should have won but maybe it was in some fellas’ heads that we can afford to lose one.
“But we were ten points clear, we should have won that game. In Clermont we gave them 20 points and at one stage we realised we were going out of the competition and played brilliantly for 40 minutes and almost won the game – got the crucial bonus point.
“Then against Glasgow and Llanelli (recently in the Magners League), I think in our preparation, nothing the coaches did or anything, but in my own preparation I wouldn’t be at the same pitch as I would be for a Heineken Cup game.”
ON MUNSTER’S FORM LEADING UP TO THE TOULOUSE GAME:
“I remember we had six games in nine weeks because of the World Cup year. And we had a serious bond at that stage. We had momentum and weren’t disrupted by internationals.
“I thought the level that we had against Wasps that night at Thomond Park was the best level. But we haven’t reached that in the quarter-final and semi-final.
“That’s the level we’ll have to surpass to beat Toulouse. Our attitude was unbelievable around that time (in January). It was a refusal to lose and we need to try to get back to that level and beyond it.”
ON WHAT IT MEANS TO PLAY FOR MUNSTER:
“In 2006, when we beat Leinster in the Heineken Cup semi, they were the feelings that encapsulated it. I was playing for Cork, Paul (O’Connell) was playing for Limerick and we were all playing for Munster.
“Just the joy we got out of pleasing the people of Munster and then the scenes for the final (in Cardiff). It’s rare you see it in other sports.
“The main thing for me is the credibility Munster players have as opposed to an Irish team. I think people will say, ‘there’s O’Gara, he’s on the Munster team’, and there’s a respect there.
“That’s what drives me and makes me push myself harder – the fact that people around the world respect the Munster team and the jersey, that’s what makes me tick and makes me want to do the best that I can.”
ON THE SUPPORT OF THE MUNSTER FAITHFUL:
“A lot of fellas like ‘Mafs’ (Lifeimi Mafi) and Rua (Tipoki) and Dougie (Howlett) weren’t around when we won the Heineken Cup in 2006 so it’s all new to them, they’re excited and fascinated by the whole support thing.
“They’re living the dream for want of a better word, they’re delighted to be here and fascinated by the support and how they’ve been received.”
ON HAVING PAUL O’CONNELL AS CAPTAIN:
“Paul has been exceptional. He’s the fella who drove on the most in the quarter-final and semi-final. He seems to be the one that’s leading, so we need to combine as a unit.
“If you’re negative about it – to get to four finals and win one, that would be hard to take.
“If you got to this final and win it, I think you’d be very proud of having achieved two wins in three years. But it will truly hurt the players if they don’t…that has to be the motivation.”