Rugby World Cup 2011

Ireland opt for O'Gara

2011-09-30 08:11
Ronan O'Gara (File)

Dunedin - Scrumhalf Conor Murray will make only his second start for Ireland after being selected to play against Italy in a crunch Rugby World Cup clash at the Otago Stadium on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Murray has won out over the more experienced Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss for a starting place in a match that will determine which of the Six Nations rivals makes it through to the quarter-finals.

Alongside Murray, whose only previous start was in Ireland's opening 22-10 Pool C win over the United States, will be his Munster team-mate Ronan O'Gara, who has beaten Jonathan Sexton to be Ireland's first-choice flyhalf.

Sexton started in Ireland's shock 15-6 pool victory over Australia.

But O'Gara had to come off the bench, playing alongside his rival as a centre, in order to seal the win after Sexton missed three out of five goalkicks against the Wallabies.

O'Gara, on for centre Gordon D'Arcy, secured the upset of the tournament so far with two crucial penalties with Murray also finishing against Australia after coming off the bench.

"I think he's a good player," Ireland coach Declan Kidney said of Murray after unveiling his team here on Friday.

"It's very thin margins and he's taken things in his stride. He got a few chances in the August (warm-up) games and did well against the USA in difficult conditions and Australia when he came on. I think he warrants his chance."

Kidney denied he'd picked O'Gara for his superior goalkicking.

"I don't think I've ever picked a fella in my life solely on place-kicking. Johnny is a top-class out-half. He's disappointed he's not starting."

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, returning to the team after missing the 62-12 rout of Russia, said of Murray: "He is new to it, he's dealing with it extremely well.

"He is a confident young man and he's in his depth in these surroundings."

Meanwhile, star centre O'Driscoll said he was "chomping at the bit" after being rested against Russia.

"Any Test you miss in a green jersey is never a positive," he said.

Apart from his half-backs, Kidney stuck with the remainder of the team that took the field against Australia.

Sunday's match is effectively a winner-takes-all clash, given Australia are expected to seal one of the two quarter-final spots on offer in this pool should they, as expected, record a bonus-point win over Russia on Saturday.

Ireland have won their last 15 Tests against Italy but only recorded a 13-11 win in the Six Nations in Rome in February thanks to O'Gara's late drop-goal.

"We totally respect the quality they (Italy) do possess and we have to make sure we are on our game," said O'Driscoll, with both nations looking to atone for their failure to make the quarter-finals in France four years ago.

"It's win or bust. We always thought it would be a very important fixture. We always thought we had the capability of beating Australia but it hasn't made any difference to our original thought that we had to beat Italy."


15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.

Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Andrew Trimble

15 Andrea Masi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Cornelius van Zyl, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Salvatore Perugini

Substitutes: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18  Marco Bortolami, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Edoardo Gori, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Luke McLean


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