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Wednesday 14 November 2018

O'Gara changes mind on Murray

Ex-Ireland out-half admires Farrell

STOUT SUPPORT: Former Irish international Ronan O’Gara at yesterday’s Guinness Series #AnswerIrelandsCall launch. Guinness are giving away tickets to upcoming internationals. Check out Guinness facebook page. Pic: Inpho
STOUT SUPPORT: Former Irish international Ronan O’Gara at yesterday’s Guinness Series #AnswerIrelandsCall launch. Guinness are giving away tickets to upcoming internationals. Check out Guinness facebook page. Pic: Inpho

Ronan O'Gara has changed his tune about the possibility of Conor Murray making it to the starting line against New Zealand.

It was just last week when the former Ireland out-half's "gut instinct" was that Murray would be back for November 17 encounter.

"Whats the latest on it?" asked O'Gara. "(Simon) Easterby said 'maybe' in camp," came the reply

"I can't see how his first game would be the All Blacks game," said O'Gara.

"I would say, in his own head, he'd probably like two games before he's playing them, you know."

Injury

The 29-year-old scrum-half has not played this season, due to a neck injury, the third test against Australia at the end of June his last appearance.

"He's been out a long time. He needs to be playing. I can't see how he'll play.

"I met him at the Munster dinner in London," he shared.

"I got the impression from him that he thought he was days away, more than weeks away."

The reason Ireland coach Joe Schmidt went to the bother of building depth in the squad was to cope with the loss of those most important.

Anyway, O'Gara is impressed by the alternatives at nine, if not quite convinced about which is the understudy.

"I don't see much of a pecking order, who is second, who is fourth.

"I'd say it's all to play for. That's my read on it.

"I actually saw Luke McGrath playing for Leinster live and I thought he was very good," he said.

"To be fair, Kieran Marmion, when he's played for Ireland, has been very good.

"I haven't seen enough of his Connacht form to comment accurately on it.

"In fairness to Cooney, he's driven Ulster to wherever Ulster have got to.

"I don't know where that is, exactly, but he's been very good on probably an average team, at best."

When New Zealand come to Dublin, they will not be shaking in their boots.

Not if Jonathan Sexton is there to meet them. Nor Murray. Far from it.

"Every team that plays them, it's a cup final for them. It's the biggest week of their year," stated O'Gara.

"Their preparation is very similar all the time. They're not relying on emotions.

"They put a lot of work into their detail and their preparation.

"You could see South Africa were at the right pitch (in Wellington).

"I don't think they can get to that pitch every week, but they caught them once. They should have caught them twice.

"It's an interesting time for teams. But, you just know that New Zealand will hit a seven (out of ten) every time.

"But, under Schmidt, Ireland have hit that as well."

The thought of Ireland-after-Joe is terrifying to some within the IRFU.

Leinster spiralled downwards after Schmidt's exit, prompting Sexton to call out the culture of the club on his return from Paris.

There is a legitimate worry that Schmidt's likely return to New Zealand after the World Cup could lead to an erosion of the foundation blocks that have been put in place.

The answer to Ireland's Call could be right here in defence coach Andy Farrell.

"Yeah. I just admire him, I don't know him that well," issued O'Gara.

"When you just meet him, you know you're dealing with a competitor,

"I think he gets it with players. He just has that vibe."

There is also the factor of Farrell as anything but a 'Yes Man'.

"They probably go on about it being Joe's way or no way.

"But, I'd be certain with Andy Farrell that he wouldn't back down easily which I think is very important.

"If he has a key message to deliver he's delivering his message.

"That's what players want, they want clarity."

There is also the solid work of Stuart Lancaster at Leinster.

"We are quick to knock the English, but they are quality coaches.

"What I find is it doesn't matter where you are from - get the best people and players will be inspired to perform like they have under Joe.

"But, I don't think there is another Joe out there."

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