Captain O’Driscoll backing O’Gara to bounce back from November disappointment
IRELAND captain Brian O'Driscoll has backed out-half Ronan O'Gara to put his November disappointment behind him when he runs out to face Italy in the Grand Slam champions' Six Nations opener at Croke Park this afternoon (2.30).
O'Gara lost out to Jonathan Sexton in Ireland's last international and the Leinster out-half produced a quality display as Declan Kidney's side downed the world champions. Both players have been in good form for their provinces since then, leading to frenzied debate over who would wear the No 10 jersey this afternoon.
Sexton's dead-leg injury ruled him out of that contest and now O'Driscoll believes O'Gara is ready to produce a top-drawer performance against the Italians.
"He (O'Gara) has been great since he's been back in camp, he has looked very fresh and enthusiastic -- not that that ever waned, but he just looks like someone whose on top of his game," enthused O'Driscoll yesterday.
"Rog has been excellent. He would have been very disappointed in November, and he's gone away and worked hard on his game and has played very well for Munster.
"It's fantastic to have two guys fighting for a place the way that the two of them are."
Italy coach Nick Mallett says his side have to produce a faultless performance if they are to entertain any notions of a shock win over the title-holders.
The Italians have lost all 10 Six Nations encounters between the sides and the South African says the quality of the opposition today means there is no room for Azzurri error.
"Ireland never lost in 2009," said Mallett. "They are the defending champions and a team of the highest level. We need to put pressure on their scrum, be efficient in touch and in our foot-play but above all, not give anything to them on defence for the entire 80 minutes."