What with Dublin and Kerry serving up a classic All Ireland final and the country in recession, the Independent has chosen to stay with the 70s theme and reignite the out-half debate.
It must be a slow week in Taupo. None of the Irish team went dwarf tossing, with the exception of Stephen Ferris’ effort on Will Genia. The gnome like Declan Kidney delivered his promised performance and win against Australia. The players injured in the warm up games came through relatively unscathed and performed well. The borderline selections, such as Seanie at 7 and Conor Murray off the bench, worked perfectly. The results of the warm up matches now seem insignificant. The Russians’ names are difficult to spell and there’s only so many interviews can be done with Artemiev about going to school in Blackrock. What is a hack to do?
The possibility of the Sexton playing at first centre alongside O’Gara was presented to the Mole after the home warm up game against France and dismissed out of hand. Despite any evidence to the contrary, I’m refusing to change my tune. The line-up reappeared against Australia, although it’s difficult to know if that was accident or design. If Trimble had been put on for D’Arcy then Ireland used their back-three sub at centre. Seeing as Tommy Bowe missed a lot of the summer through injury and Rob Kearney had started one game in 2011, it was unlikely that both would finish the game and Kearney came off shortly afterwards. Moving Sexton out to first centre was a prudent move, not a tactical masterstroke.
It was also necessitated by O’Gara’s limitations. ROG is a top quality out half – he’d probably make the French team and maybe the English one. He’s a peerless kicker out of hand, excellent with the placed ball and has big game temperament. However, he can’t tackle, poses little threat as a runner and stands quite deep and stock still when he receives the ball before shipping it on. Over a decade, opposing teams have targeted to attack down his channel. It’s not that he shies away from tackling, he’s just useless at it. Sexton isn’t as good a kicker out of hand but has a far more rounded game than O’Gara. He played a leading role in two Heineken Cup wins and has an established partnership with Reddan.
Simply put, moving Sexton out of position to accommodate O’Gara creates more problems than it solves. Ireland’s midfield defence weakens, their attack weakens and their ability to change things off the bench weakens (heeeere’s Paddy!). As things stand, O’Gara is a supersub (for Ireland – let’s leave the Lions out of it). He came on against England in Twickenham in 2010 and won Ireland the game in O’Driscoll’s absence. He closed out superbly against England this year and was excellent against Australia off the bench. It works. Don’t change it.
One for the aficionados: was O’Gara the place kicker on his 1995 Pres Cork team? I don’t think he was, I think some lad with a double barrelled name took the kicks.