Thursday 30 March 2017

I can get better says O'Gara

Hugh Farrelly

RONAN O'GARA goes into his 95th international against France on Saturday vowing: "I know I can get better."

The Munster out-half held off the challenge of Jonathan Sexton for the trip to Paris, with his Leinster rival included among an extended substitutes list as Ireland coach Declan Kidney keeps his options open pending various fitness issues to be resolved over the next two days.

And O'Gara, who kicked six from six as part of an impressive all-round performance in Ireland's 29-11 victory over Italy at Croke Park last weekend, says he is determined to keep improving.

"I know I can get better. If I thought I couldn't, it's not much good," said the 32-year-old.

"You have to know you can because that's what's required to be part of a winning Munster team or a winning Ireland team."

Sexton's emergence has given Kidney two quality options in the key playmaker's position and it was the Leinster man who was selected for Ireland's seminal November victory over world champions South Africa -- a decision that O'Gara says hurt badly and strengthened his determination to re-establish himself at No 10.

"There was one thing in my head after the summer and that was to try and beat South Africa so that was the one game I wanted to play in," said O'Gara.

"Jonny did well, so that hurts. But you move on. It seems like a long time ago now but I think it's still fresh enough to keep me highly motivated. I can take the rough -- and by God there has been some rough times -- but you have to dig in and believe in yourself, keep coming back for more," he added.

Ireland have left a vacancy open at blindside flanker for Ulster's Stephen Ferris, who is undergoing fitness tests on the knee injury that ruled him out last weekend.

If he fails to recover in time, Kevin McLaughlin will play in his stead after making his debut against Italy, while Leinster's Leo Cullen continues in the second row as Donncha O'Callaghan is again ruled out with a leg injury.

In the backline, Kidney has made one change with Keith Earls coming onto the left wing for Andrew Trimble, who is included among the replacements.

France name their team today but will definitely be without wings Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall who started their 18-9 win against Scotland last Sunday together with replacement prop Luc Ducalcon.

Coach Marc Lievremont has strong options to come in on the wing between Clermont's Julien Malzieu and Toulouse pair Maxime Medard and Vincent Clerc -- who has scored seven tries in his five appearances against Ireland.

Irish Independent

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