Friday 9 December 2016

Jenkins sings praises of 'legend' O'Gara

Published 11/03/2011 | 14:42

Ronan O'Gara. Photo: Sportsfile
Ronan O'Gara. Photo: Sportsfile

Ronan O'Gara has been hailed as "a legend of the game" as he prepares to join an exclusive club in Test match rugby.

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The Ireland fly-half needs just two points to reach 1,000 at international level, adding his name to a roll of honour that features just four other players - Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter, Neil Jenkins and Diego Dominguez.

And Jenkins, now part of Wales' coaching staff aiming to plot Ireland's RBS 6 Nations downfall at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow, believes Munster star O'Gara deserves the highest praise.

"We know how good a player he is," said former Wales fly-half Jenkins.

"We need to be on the ball tomorrow, whether they go for a running or kicking game or a bit of both.

"What can you say about him? He has done everything. I have been lucky to tour with him with the (British and Irish) Lions in 2001 and as a kicking coach in 2009.

"I get on well with him. He is a great bloke and a fantastic rugby player.

"He has achieved everything in the game. He has been on three Lions tours, he has won more than 100 caps, a Grand Slam, Triple Crowns, Heineken Cups. He is a Munster legend, and now he needs just a couple of points for a 1,000.

"If I see him tomorrow I am sure I will have a bit of banter with him, as he is getting close to my number (of points). He is a legend of the game and a legend of Irish rugby."

While O'Gara is pivotal to Irish hopes of maintaining a remarkable results sequence in Cardiff - one defeat from 12 starts since 1983 - so Wales will place a heavy reliance on their number 10 James Hook.

Hook has regained the fly-half role from 98 times-capped Stephen Jones after being switched to centre as replacement for an injured Jonathan Davies when Wales beat Italy in Rome last time out.

Jenkins added: "I am a massive fan of Stephen - it's a very tight call between these guys.

"Stephen is fantastic. He has 98 caps, two Lions tours, six Lions (Test) caps and has done everything in the game. It's touch and go between these guys.

"It's just a change in philosophy, in a sense, as we are looking for a bit more ball in hand and James can play what is in front of him, as can Stephen.

"They are exceptional players and we are very lucky to have them."

Wales and Ireland still have title aspirations heading into their latest meeting, having each won two games out of three, and home forwards coach Robin McByrde anticipates a tight contest.

McBryde said: "I think it's fair to say both teams are struggling to find their top form, to really play at the best of their ability and have that accuracy under the pressure that international rugby brings.

"Hopefully, both teams will bring their best game to the table tomorrow. We know how comfortable Ireland are coming to Cardiff, so hopefully we can make it as uncomfortable as possible tomorrow. It will be about the small margins."

Jonathan Thomas, meanwhile, has been declared fit to take his place on the Wales bench after passing a fitness test on the dead leg he suffered while in Magners League action for the Ospreys last weekend.

And with Scarlets back-row forward Rob McCusker also confirmed among the substitutes, it means that Wasps number eight Andy Powell misses out.

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