As he says himself, he has an "embarrassment of riches" in the choice between the two. It's never and easy decision, but for now, the Hump is his first pick out-half. So Rog is out to prove a point when he lines up with the first XV in his 35th international cap. "It's an opportunity [for me]," he says candidly."Obviously I'm aware of the competition from Humps [David Humphreys], both of us would like to play in the Argentina game, so I'm fully aware that this is my opportunity," he said.
Whether he does or not is out of his hands. "All I can do is put on a performance to the best of my ability. It has been going well for the last few games, so I'll hopefully go out and enjoy myself and make sure the team and myself play to the best of my ability." After coming off the bench for the last quarter against Romania, he's starting on Sunday, and says he is all too aware what's at stake.
The 26-year-old has had a number of outstanding performances in the Irish number 10 jersey, most notably against Samoa in scorching temperatures in July. The US-born Cork man had his international debut against Scotland in the Six Nations tournament in 2000 and have been an instrumental member of the Irish squad ever since. He converted 12 kicks from 12 attempts in the following game against Italy, and played a starring role in Ireland's famous victory over the French in Paris the same year. Despite his relatively young age, O'Gara has to date scored 332 test points for Ireland, including five tries and 61 penalties, and looks set to add to that tally in the coming years.
He is likely to add to it considerably on Sunday against the Namibians, when anything less than a total demolition by the Irish would be seen as a failure. However after David Humphreys got the nod ahead of him in Gosford, he wasn't sure that he would get the chance to do so in this campaign. "The indication I was under was that it was going to be a full strength team for the first game. I thought I'd be looking at sitting on the bench for this game as well. I'm not second-guessing what Eddie is doing but it is an opportunity for the back row and myself to stake a claim for the bigger games."
The subs bench is the last place the star out-half wasn't to be, but he's a professional, and he gets on with the game. "It s a terrible position, it's not easy to come in off the bench, saying that I was very happy with my impact last Saturday. I think if I probably just went in and had a mediocre performance, then I mightn't have got an opportunity so I think it was important that I did well for the 15 or 20 minutes I was on." The approach to a game from the sub's bench is different too, he says. "You have a different build up and approach to the day.
When you are subbing you can kind of see things from a distance, but then you are straight in so you've got to turn the switch automatically. When you are starting it s a gradual process of getting yourself right for the kick off. It's easier," he said. He was disappointed not got the nod ahead of the Ulster-man, but says Sunday is chance to earn his place against the Pumas. "All the games I've played have gone well, both personally and for the team, but I still found myself [out] I'm not in the team as a first choice at the minute so I've definitely something to prove."
Sunday will be hot in Sydney. Temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius are forecast, but O'Gara said both he and the team handled much worse in Samoa and got the job done. "Conditions will be someway similar to Samoa, and if I can replicated my form I'll be happy. It was extremely demanding both mentally and physically but I'm looking forward to playing." Despite the fact that Ireland are run away favourites, O'Gara denies there is any sense in the squad that players can take it easy. On a team level, the plan will be to win and get a bonus point, but on a personal level, players will be fighting for positions as well. "Its an opportunity for us to go out and express ourselves and lay down a marker for selection and hopefully a good campaign by the team.
There is big competition within the squad so fellas that are coasting will find themselves out of the team sooner rather than later." So Sunday is D-Day and Ronan will be out to play the game of his life. But don't expect safe, text book rugby, he says. That's just not his style. It's high risk stuff, he says, and he's getting better at it. "I make mistakes in the game, I don t play a low risk game, I like to involve 'Drico' (BoD) at all times and get the ball wide, a few cut out passes here and there.
They are the risks I take but I think there is a greater reward when they come off rather than playing the percentages all the time. I will make mistakes and I have done, obviously I wouldn't be happy to make them. I make a mistake or two a game but the positive should definitely out weigh the negatives. "You have a game plan but you have got to play a lot of what you see in front of you a lot of the time.
It's a case of getting a balance between the two." The determined Irish support is something Rog is also very grateful for. "It s a huge boost to all of us. I could stand back a little bit the last day because I was subbing, and there was a terrific atmosphere and unbelievable support. "It was the first game of the competition and events will probably snowball from here. Sydney on Sunday night should be a great occasion too, the team are fully aware of the magnificent support we have and hopefully we'll give them something to should about."
(Interview courtesy of Tom Felle of The Irish Echo - Sydney.)