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O'Gara Still Well In The Hunt
6 June 2005, 9:42 am
Despite what s been said in the media, on the evidence of the three games played so far, Ronan O Gara remains in pole position to nail the number 10 jersey when the first Test comes around
Despite what s been said in the media, and with doubts still surrounding the well-being of Jonny Wilkinson, on the evidence of the three games played so far, Ronan O Gara remains in pole position to nail the number 10 jersey when the first Test comes around in two weeks time.

And, again going on what has been seen to date, it wouldn t be beyond the bounds of possibility that the Irish could end up with the Lions share when Sir C names the 22 to face the all Blacks in Christchurch on June 25th.

Ignoring the, mainly English media hype about (English) performances in the games against Argentina, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, and taking into consideration the relative strengths of the opposition, O Gara s performance, against the strongest side of the trio, was easily superior to that of either Wilkinson (v Argentina) or Hodgson (v Taranaki).

Dealing firstly with the area of most criticism, his defence. Yes, he was culpable for the first try and no-one but no-one will be more aware of this than him.

He went high and got bounced. Thought process right, technique all wrong. Put your money on that not happening again this trip.

However, when Allan Bunting glaringly broke the line later in that opening half, it was Gavin Henson, drifting off who badly let his out-half down. Henson exited stage-left, like a surfer drawn to a big breaker, giving O Gara no chance of taking down the flying Bunting.

And yes his place kicking was nothing near what he would expect himself but the one that will have annoyed him most will be the attempted conversion of Dwayne Peel s try.

But his performance in the opening quarter of the game was simply outstanding. He took the game by the scruff of the neck and had a significant hand - and a sublime right foot - in each of the tries scored in that period.

And when Sir C needed to go to Plan B or was it C in the second half, they had the Lord of the Lines in the right position to give the Lions the field position to go on and win the game. O Gara s touch finds were inch perfect and at one stage one of his biggest critics, Mr Sky Barnes, forgot himself for a moment to tell viewers that O Gara s latest touch hugger gave him a yardage total of 300 odd metres. Mind you it was a rare compliment from a commentator who has been on the Munster 10s back from as far back as the game against Gwent Dragons when O Gara was injured.

Hodgson couldn t seriously be considered for the Test place, he will always look good against the Taranakis of this world, but his Six Nations form is what one must keep in mind.

Wilkinson was good enough against Argentina but looking at him as he sat on the bench on Wednesday he wore a worried look and just didn t seem totally at peace with the world. And one wonders why he wasn t given some game time that night. Could it be that all is not well with the Falcons fly-half ?

If he is fit and well he will start against the Blicks and then O Gara has to be on the bench in order to deliver the sort of second half that was required against Bay of Plenty.

Elsewhere, it s a question of who will partner Paul O Connell and who will partner Brian O Driscoll.

In both cases Irish players hold pole position. Up front it should be a straight decision between Ben Kay and Donncha O Callaghan. Danny Grewcock would generate little fear were he to be selected and there s always a real good chance he will spend some part of the match sitting in the bin .

If Simon Shaw wasn t considered good enough to make the initial party how then could he be considered for the Test side and Shane Byrne will be needed on the bench if Steve Thompson s darts go awry which they are very capable of doing.

In the backs it should be either Gordon D Arcy or Shane Horgan.

Horgan could be the dark horse here. He s big and strong, aggressive in the tackle and off-loads exceptionally well in contact. Geordan Murphy s ability and versatility makes him almost impossible to ignore. Josh Lewsey will more than likely start at 15, but Murphy could operate on the wing or be asked to sit on the bench as cover for that position and full-back.

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