FORMER IRELAND OUT-HALF Ronan O’Gara told RTÉ viewers before Ireland’s match with New Zealand that he fancied his former teammates’ chances.
The Racing Métro assistant coach was so close to being proved right as Ireland went in 22-7 up at half-time. Ultimately, however, they went scoreless in the second-half and were pipped at the post by a late, converted Ryan Crotty try.
Speaking with ex-Ireland winger Shane Horgan post-match, O’Gara declared that Joe Schmidt’s team had ‘restored pride, respect [and] belief’ with their gutsy display against the world champions. He said, “There were questions about these players, about the rugby game in Ireland. I’m very proud here tonight.
It was absolutely horrific here in the last minute [but], putting on my sporting hat, you have to admire the clutch mentality of the Kiwis. That inner belief and ability to know that one ball that goes to the ground [then] all their 12 months of work goes down the drain. They’re the standards that they set themselves but the next time we play them we’ll beat them.”
O’Gara said Gordon D’Arcy had his best game in the green jersey while both Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll were “immense”, and Cian Healy was ‘a freak’. The Cork native is now coaching Jonathan Sexton in the Top 14 insists the out-half, who missed a late penalty, will not miss a similar opportunity if presented with it in the future. “It’s a very harsh lesson today but no one incident decides a game over 80 minutes,” O’Gara said.
Horgan paid tribute to the skillful and committed Irish players and believes their line speed almost gave them a first ever win over the All Blacks. “Let’s not say that the players aren’t there and Ireland can’t compete at the highest level,” he added. “They can compete.”
O’Gara added, “We’re the best in the world for a one-off performance but, for the 2015 World Cup, the lads will have to come down and get back up within six days… We need to progress for the World Cup.”
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