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Kidney denies superior goalkicking behind O’Gara selection at 10

IRELAND coach Declan Kidney has denied Ronan O'Gara has been picked for his superior goalkicking at the Rugby World Cup.

O'Gara turned in an impressive kicking display against Russia last week, while Jonathan Sexton, his rival for the number 10 jersey, has struggled with his kicking throughout the tournament in New Zealand.

“Ronan and Conor (Murray) went well in the last 20 minutes against Australia. Ronan went well against Russia as well,” said Kidney.

“This is the right combination for us against Italy. They've played a few times together now.

“Ronan has been place-kicking well, but if Jonathan Sexton was starting on Sunday it wouldn't worry me.

“I'd hate to go down the road that we're picking Ronan because of his place-kicking.

“He's too good a player to be saying that about him, while Jonny's place kicking is not of concern to me.”

Ireland could finish the group phase with three wins, including that stunning 15-6 win over Australia, yet they will still return home if they fail to beat Italy on Sunday.

Kidney insists he always viewed the Azzurri at the key fixture in |Pool C, even though outside the camp Australia were perceived to be of greater significance.

“Everyone was talking about the

Australia game coming into the World Cup, but in our minds we always knew Italy was the big one,” he said.

“Australia was the attractive one to win, Italy was the necessary one to win.

“The law of averages said Australia would beat Italy in the first match.

“Unless you do a New Zealand and get 15 points from your first three games, it was always going to come down to this.

“England and South Africa find themselves in the same situation – three wins from three – yet are also in cup final situations.

“If we were to go out at this stage, well that's life. The Australia win gave us momentum and that was carried on against Russia.”