Tuesday 20 March 2018

Evergreen O'Gara has no plans to hang up his boots

Ian Bransfield

As he approaches his 100th Test appearance, Munster's Ronan O'Gara says he can't see himself ever giving up rugby.

It had been anticipated that the 33-year-old Corkman would hang up the boots after next year's World Cup following a radio interview last August, when he intimated that his time at the top was coming to an end.

But with a renewed appetite for the game -- and for life -- Ireland's leading points scorer says he plans to stick it out for as long as he can.

"In previous interviews I may have said that I only plan on playing for another two seasons but I've gone completely the other way now," he explains. "I can't see myself stopping.

"With hindsight it was an inaccurate way of thinking about it. Why would I put a timeline on it? The minute you stop enjoying it or when you think you're not the best man to play, then you go."

Part of the reason for O'Gara's new-found exuberance can be explained by the birth of a third child, JJ, last June.

"I find contentment through my family life and kids," he smiles. "That's the real world -- when rugby's finished that's what my life will essentially be about."

Also, the challenge set down to him by Jonathan Sexton has forced him to re-evaluate his goals and is the driving force behind his renewed motivation.

"Maybe a year ago I was frustrated with being on and off the team," he says. "But now it's all to play for, and I feel like I can offer a lot.

"Of course, I've a huge battle for the 10 jersey. I haven't been this motivated for a long time -- I'm delighted with my consistency of performance, and excited about the challenge of trying to get onto the team.

"I've always been a believer that if the team goes well, the out-half goes well, and that's exactly the case going forward, whether I start or come off the bench.

"I've always been very emotional about Munster, but now with the big year coming up for Ireland, I can't wait to produce the goods for them."

O'Gara's form this season has been as good as it has for some time. His goal-kicking rate is 86pc, a far cry from his record this time last year when he copped his share of criticism for his below-par stats, and, in some cases, his approach.

"It's an interesting subject," he says. "I've no problem saying that I treated the first three Magners League games last season as warm-up games.

"Maybe that's disrespectful to my team-mates and to the competition. I didn't have any warm-up games, so it was a chance for me to experiment and to learn.

"I kicked poorly in those games and then I tried to get it back against the Ospreys when the pressure was on, but I didn't kick well in that game.

"It was perceived I wasn't kicking well, but it was only for three games and, as you know, everything in this country snowballs.

"This year I've worked it out in my head what I want to do kicking-wise and I'm happy with how I'm striking the ball. I don't think I need to tweak anything."

His good form hasn't gone unnoticed, with several Top 14 clubs thought to be interested, according to reports in French newspapers.

"I read the Post," O'Gara quips in an apparent effort to dodge the question.

"The IRFU gets knocked a fair bit, but I've had an unbelievable relationship with them in terms of negotiating contracts.

"With regards to me making any approaches -- that's completely wide of the mark. I'm completely committed to Munster," he added, "and negotiations will presumably take place around Christmas depending on what Ireland do for me."

Irish Independent

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