"I think we all have a stomach-full of the box-kick" - Ronan O'Gara 7 months ago

"I think we all have a stomach-full of the box-kick" - Ronan O'Gara

"It's all gone very quickly, and a little bit full circle. The flairs were in fashion, then the skinnies, then the flairs, then the skinnies."

As fashion talk with Ronan O'Gara goes, that is about the height of it. Swings and roundabouts. Stay of Instagram to avoid the fashion-related slaggings.

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We are four days out from Ireland's latest encounter with the All Blacks and Ronan O'Gara is available - as part of a Benetti menswear campaign - and giving his thoughts on the state of our rugby nation.

Having coached with the Crusaders in New Zealand - winning two Super Rugby titles while there - and faced off against the All Blacks on multiple occasions, the former Munster and Ireland outhalf is well placed to set the scene for us. To that end, the La Rochelle questions are parked, for now, and it is all about Ireland taking on their toughest foe.

O'Gara is asked about what game involving Irish sides the Kiwis ever stopped to discuss with him during his coaching stint in New Zealand.

"There was that game in Christchurch [in 2012]," he says, "but it's mainly be the people from there talking about it. We lost to a horrible drop goal from Dan Carter in the last minute. We should have got a penalty. Mike Ross won a scrum penalty, but Nigel Owens went against us.

"They still go on about Munster beating the All Blacks in 1978, and the more recent Munster vs. New Zealand game in Thomond Park. Those two and the Christchurch game."

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Ronan O'Gara and Johnny Sexton pictured after a 2012 win over Argentina. (Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE)

Ireland got their approach spot-on against Japan: Ronan O'Gara

That narrow defeat in 2012, at Rugby League Park, was the closest O'Gara ever came to a famous win over the All Blacks.

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Ireland have beaten New Zealand twice in the past five years but bruising memories still linger of the last encounter between the sides - a 2019 World Cup quarter final shellacking.

Ireland have been buoyed by recent wins, and performances, and O'Gara believes Andy Farrell's side will stick to their attacking, offloading guns.

"I do," he says. "I do, because they have been looking to play like that for a long time.

"Obviously against Japan they got so many of the elements right and they were probably aided by a team that maybe under-appreciated Ireland, the fact that the last time they played them they said, 'We have these guys and we can put it up to these guys'.

"Like, Saturday was such a mis-match on so many fronts that Japan were humiliated in most departments of rugby. You can pick them apart, but that would be an error on my behalf, because they put it up to Australia. Australia are a good team now, and they've improved, and that was the second last game for Australia, so Japan have something about them, but didn't show it in Dublin. They weren't allowed to show it because Ireland got their approach spot on, but it clicked with the idea of hitting space."

"So many coaches use that, but I think for me it's a perfect example of what the coach is looking for," O'Gara adds.

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"He's looking for the players to back their instincts and back their decisions and play that ball at the space, and that was probably epitomised best by James Lowe running great lines outside his 22, but that's probably an irregular line for a lot of wingers, but he's been given free reign by management to go get as many touches on the ball and run holes as much as he can."

Ronan O'Gara didn't expect such a rapid Irish identity shift

The big test may come after the full-time whistle, on Saturday.

If Ireland play a more expansive game but are still beaten by a formidable New Zealand side, some could seek Farrell's men to go back to a more kicking a set-piece driven style of play. O'Gara feels it is vital that Farrell holds firm. He says:

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"It's important because I think we all have a stomach-full of the box-kick.

"That was probably the most pleasing aspect of last week, the fact there are other options to exit with, there are other ways of playing the game. The box-kick doesn't need to be the solution for everything and I don't think that's been the Irish mentality, but it has been certainly a factor for a long number of years.

"We could see last weekend that you can shift the point of attack or defence in numerous capacities to play at the other people's skills, especially with left-footers, right-footers.

"I think it will be very interesting because I don't think there will be a shift away from this. This is what they've been looking for, but I didn't think they expected to get where they are as quick as they did, and that's a credit to the work going on behind the scenes."

As for the Johnny Sexton question, O'Gara feels we will know more about our out-halves depth by the time Ireland have played the 2022 Six Nations and toured in the summer... to New Zealand.

Four of the next 10 Tests are against the All Blacks. That, right there, is your proving ground.

Irish menswear company Benetti has announced a two-year partnership with Ronan O’Gara.
The former Munster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions star will front Benetti’s new campaign and it’s Autumn Winter ’21 collection, which is available at featured retailers nationwide and exclusively online at Benetti.ie

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