Irish coach chooses Sexton over O'Gara - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Irish coach chooses Sexton over O'Gara

25/11/2009 03:05:52 PM Comments (0)

Ireland coach Declan Kidney said it was his desire to see Jonathan Sexton play against top opposition that led him to axe veteran fly-half Ronan O'Gara for Saturday's clash with South Africa.

Sexton marked his Ireland debut last week with 16 points in a thumping 41-6 win over Fiji.

But it was the 24-year-old's assured game management, a feature of his play for Leinster during the Irish province's European Cup-winning campaign last season, that persuaded Kidney to pitch him into a match that pits Six Nations kings Ireland against World Cup holders South Africa at Croke Park.

And Kidney's move could mark a significant turning point in the career of O'Gara and the course of Irish rugby as a whole.

Not since 2003, when David Humphreys faced Argentina at the World Cup, has a different stand-off started for Ireland against a major Test nation.

O'Gara has started every single Six Nations match for the past six years - a run of 30 games - and has only been rested when on duty for the British and Irish Lions or against minor opposition.

But his form during the past two years has been inconsistent and he will be 34 by the time of the next World Cup, in New Zealand in 2011.

Kidney knows that, at the very least, Ireland need a credible deputy and, after announcing his team to face the Springboks, he told reporters on Tuesday: "I know we have a world-class outside half in Ronan but we have to find out things about ourselves.

"Jonathan had a good game last week but with respect, Fiji were short of a few so it was difficult to read. I need to find out more.

"I worked with Jonathan last year and gave him the nod for the 'A' team and that answered a lot of questions.

"I know we still have Ronan available. He's disappointed he's not playing but I can't pick everybody all of the time.

"Ronan is disappointed but is the perfect pro. He's taken it on the chin, has continued training and has contributed to the team exactly as he would normally.

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has won the bulk of his 95 Ireland caps alongside O'Gara but, as a Leinster man, he also knows Sexton well.

"Declan is looking to give Jonathan an opportunity after he proved himself against an under-strength Fiji side," O'Driscoll said.

"It's another chance for him against the world champions. They're two different prospects."

"The Springboks - who grabbed their first win of the northern hemisphere tour on Saturday against Italy - had intended to name their team on Tuesday but have delayed it until Thursday.

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