“There is no time to look back, because rugby is such a competitive sport. You always have to look to the next challenge because they keep on cropping up at every level of the game.” The words of Ronan O’Gara prior to his 90th cap for Ireland. His ‘next challenge’ will be trying to guide Ireland past Scotland on Saturday week.
By his own admission, Ronan O’Gara did not have the best of days with the boot against England. He missed three penalty kicks and a conversion but still regained his poise to land a crucial late penalty.
The Corkman apologised to his team-mates after the game for failing to convert those kicks but none of them felt it was necessary as he had still played his part in helping Ireland to their third win of the Championship.
Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton said: “He’s still fit and strong. He had a bad day and he was the first to stand up in the dressing room afterwards to apologise to the guys.
“His apology wasn’t accepted really because they know what can happen. I think it’s business as usual with Ronan.
“I don’t think any of the players or the management have any doubt that when we really need Ronan, he’ll be there.”
McNaughton dismissed any notion that O’Gara’s missed kicks were down to extra pressure, brought on possibly by the fact that he is close to overhauling Jonny Wilkinson as the top points scorer in the International Championship.
“(Missing the kicks) it really hasn’t been talked about because people are confident that there’s nothing there.
“There’s no mental block there or extra pressure because of the Six Nations record or whatever.
“It’s just kickers can have a bad day sometimes and fortunately for Ireland over the last ten years, he’s had very few bad days.”
Ireland defence coach Les Kiss also spoke of his admiration for the way O’Gara and inside centre Paddy Wallace have fronted up defensively in the opening three RBS 6 Nations games.
With neither O’Gara or Wallace being noted as big tacklers, the channel between the numbers 10 and 12 is an obvious route for opposition to attack.
But Kiss insists he has no problems with teams opting to break through that channel as O’Gara and Wallace have ‘done exceptionally well’ so far in playing to their strengths and adding to Ireland’s defensive solidity in midfield.
“I think most teams have a game plan where they’re going to hit around the 10-12 channel. Particularly with the five metres in the scrum, usually there’s a chance to get forward and get over the gainline quickly,” the Australian said, launching a staunch defence of the system.
“Now obviously there’s a bit of focus on our 10-12 and I’d welcome anyone to go there. We’re working hard in that area.
“We’ve got great defenders on the inside of those good defenders and one of the best 13 defenders on the outside that you’ve ever seen in world rugby.
“We’re comfortable, people can come at us anywhere. We’ll fully back Ronan and Paddy to do the job.
“If you’re looking for someone to ramp up and take someone apart and drive them back 10 metres, that’s not what it’s about – we work to the strengths that those two guys give us.
“To date, there’s not been an issue. The boys have done exceptionally well. They’re as good as you want in the 10-12 channel because their preparation and attention to detail is fantastic.
“As I’ve said, are they going to hit someone and smash them back 10 metres? No, that’s not what the whole game’s about – it’s about the subtleties of working the space in front of you, manipulating the attacker’s options and putting ourselves in a position where they think they have something and all it is is fool’s gold.
“They can go there as much as they want – I welcome teams to go there.”