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Rugby comes first for ROG as he kicks Rose judge job into touch

RUGBY hero Ronan O'Gara has kicked plans to judge the Rose of Tralee in to touch as he concentrates on the upcoming World Cup.

The Diary can reveal how the Ireland player won't be lining out in the Dome this evening to cast a discerning eye over the blooming Roses.

The Cork star, who played against France at the Aviva stadium over the weekend, has now been put on lockdown ahead of Ireland's campaign.

Last February he agreed to help judge the annual contest, after making the surprise confession that he was "glued to it" every year.

However, a festival spokesman explained how ROG was unable to attend.

"It was subject to his availability and he's on World Cup duty now," he said.

"He was here last month for a Rose Bud gala event."

O'Gara and the rest of his Ireland team-mates are now busy training at Carton House this week ahead of taking on England next weekend.


Among those doing the judging honours instead will be RTE's Nationwide presenter Mary Kennedy alongside 2001's contest winner Lisa Manning.

Huge crowds have made the pilgrimage west to join in the festival celebrations, which were kick-started with a street party and a Gala Rose ball over the weekend.

Boosting local spirits no doubt was Kerry's win over Mayo, securing them a place in the All-Ireland final.

But focusing on a competition of a different kind were the 32 Roses from all over the world who have trekked down to the Kingdom in a bid to win the big prize.

And a front-runner has already emerged in the form of Queensland Rose Tara Talbot (27).

She jumped ahead of her rivals to be installed as the 5/2 favourite ahead of the first heat this evening.

"The last time I looked, I thought I was at 20/1 so that's interesting. I always try not to listen to the odds too much though," she said.

Born to an Irish dad and Filipino mum, the exotic-looking Rose was born in Dublin before her parents emigrated to Brisbane when she was five-years-old.

A secondary school teacher who is also studying for a Masters in Marketing, she obviously still has a soft spot for Dubs, given her choice in boyfriends.

"He's Irish himself, he comes from Dublin. Fionan's actually over in Australia at the moment. We've been going out just over two years so he'll be watching it all on the internet," she said.

And despite emerging as a favourite, she revealed how she had a minor drama involving her designer gown for tomorrow night.

"It got stuck in customs as it was sent over from Australia. I haven't even tried it on yet so hopefully it fits. The girls were all great, they all offered to loan me a dress if it didn't arrive in time," she added.

She will also be entertaining the punters back home by performing her own rendition of Mary Black's song Katy.