Jump to main content


O’Gara Looking Forward To Third Lions Tour

O’Gara Looking Forward To Third Lions Tour

Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara is one of four players included in Ian McGeechan’s British & Irish Lions squad who will be embarking on their third Lions tour in South Africa this summer. Brian O’Driscoll, Simon Shaw and Martyn Williams are the other three.

Ronan O’Gara was out fine-tuning his kicking with Jeremy Manning and Doug Howlett at Musgrave Park when the announcement of the 2009 British & Irish Lions squad was made on Tuesday afternoon.

The Corkman, such a key figure in Ireland’s Grand Slam success this season and Munster’s Magners League and Heineken Cup double bid, is one of only two out-halves named in Ian McGeechan’s squad bound for South Africa.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

O’Gara’s rival for the Lions number 10 jersey is Wales’ Stephen Jones, who started two of the 2005 Tests against New Zealand with England’s Jonny Wilkinson in the hotseat for the other.

O’Gara was used as a replacement in the final Lions Test against the All Blacks four years ago and just like his 13 Irish colleagues, will be eager to nail down a Test spot against the current World champions.

“In 2001 and 2005 you kinda got a tip-off about being in the tour squad but this time there was nothing,” he told TV3 Sport.

“I was kicking and then I kinda wanted to continue kicking but then I got a bit nervous around 1.30pm, so I asked Dougie to turn on the radio in his jeep so we could listen to it on the side of the pitch.

“That’s exactly what today means. It’s a hugely exciting time and it’s a tour you want to be on.

“It’s just a great day for Munster and Ireland with the amount of players involved. Once that happens, the goals will change with trying to win the Test series.”

A record 14 Ireland players will travel on this summer’s tour, eclipsing the figure of 11 from the unsuccessful 2005 tour to New Zealand.

Eight of those who will be packing their bags for South Africa hail from Munster, with the province’s achievement equalling the Lions record for one club, jointly held by Newport (1910) and Leicester Tigers (2005).

O’Gara added: “It’s a fitting tribute, I think, to where we are at the minute. The IRFU always work really hard on the structures within the game. It’s fitting now that 14 Ireland players have been named for the tour.

“It brings a smile to my face. I’m really happy at the moment and it should be a really good tour.

“I must pay tribute to the coaches we have at Munster now. An untalked-about backs coach in Jason Holland, highly rated, young and ambitious.

And then the two Australians, led by Tony McGahan. His work ethic and the values he brings to this squad has brought us up to a new level.

“All the players, a lot of us are seasoned pros at this stage, admire him for that.”

The inclusion of Alan Quinlan and Keith Earls in McGeechan’s panel may have raised some eyebrows both here and across the water, but O’Gara, from working with both players day in, day out, knows just what a difference they could make on tour.

“It’s unbelievable. I have to say I was surprised obviously with Alan. I was talking to him last week about it, but he just laughed at me and said ‘no chance’. Typical Quinny.

“It just shows you. I read during the week that the Lions management said that there were 12 places up for grabs and that form was crucial.

“The boys put in exceptional performances against the Ospreys, watched by (Warren) Gatland and Rob Howley, and that obviously came into their favour.

“But they’ve track records obviously. Alan’s 34, 35 now, I think, and he’s done it week in, week out.

“He’s the kind of player you need on tour. He’s abrasive, he’s tough and he agitates the opposition. That’s exactly what you need.

“Keith Earls has been a revelation this year. He’s only in his first season of international rugby.

“His attitude is exceptional, he’s just so willing to learn and so humble and I think those values will really stand to him. Don’t be surprised if you see him in the Test team.”

McGeechan himself said: “Keith Earls had a cracking start to his season, and we kept an eye on him. He gives something as an option as full-back or inside centre, and he is playing very confidently.

“Alan Quinlan is someone who will have quite a big impact on the environment and the character of the squad as it evolves.”

O’Gara will not want his Lions career to be remembered for the volley of punches he took from the Waratahs’ Duncan McRae during a fiery midweek game in 2001.

He has gained 11 tour caps to date, with only four starts and one Test appearance. Now the record points scorer in both the Heineken Cup and RBS 6 Nations, starting against South Africa will be a key goal for him at the end of the domestic season.

“I rate Stephen (Jones) and think he’s a good player. But you have to back yourself and give yourself the best opportunity you can.

“I’m going to enjoy the tour. Obviously there’s so much rugby to be played between now and then, but it’s a tour to be enjoyed.

“Looking through it, at first glance, there’s some good characters in the squad. There’ll be a good will to win.”

Asked about what they will need to do to win the Test series, O’Gara said: “The most important thing is we bond as a group. As players, we respect each other and buy into it. We won’t know each other that well and will have a short space of time to get it right.

“With Paul (O’Connell) as captain, he has some great attributes and they will come to the fore.

“I was listening to him on the radio being introduced as captain, and it was only then when it hit home what an honour it is.

“It’s a proud day for his school and his club and his wonderful parents and the people of Limerick. No better man to lead the Lions.

“If we just have a belief that we can go and win it then these things can happen, as we’ve seen with other events this year.”