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03rd Oct 2017

Ronan O’Gara proposal for Johnny Sexton’s back-up makes a lot of sense

Definitely worth a look

Patrick McCarry

Johnny Sexton was looking in fine form on his Leinster return, against Edinburgh, and should start at No.10 for Ireland in at least two of November internationals. Who will play deputy to Sexton is an entirely tougher conundrum.

We are now just a little over a month out from the Guinness Series and, following a tough Rugby Championship, Ireland will be targeting wins over South Africa and Argentina, as well as the visiting Fijians. One of the three games, at least, should be used as an opportunity to give another outhalf a decent run-out.

It was put to O’Gara, on The Hard Yards, that behind Sexton – with Tyler Bleyendaal not Irish qualified until 2018 and Paddy Jackson out indefinitely – the outhalf cupboard is not far off bare. He responded:

“I wouldn’t say that. You have Jack Carty at Connacht.

“He’s someone that has had flashes of excellence but is someone that has to maintain that consistently to get his foot in the Irish door. I wouldn’t give up on him yet. I think he has something to offer, big time.”

Despite Connacht’s poor start to the season, Carty has looked lively. He is averaging six carries and nine tackles per match and has 39 points, including a try against Scarlets at the weekend.

He has built up a good understanding with Kieran Marmion so that may enhance his chances of a call-up if Schmidt is thinking ahead to the Fiji game.

O’Gara believes Joe Carbery, who he worked with closely on Ireland’s summer tour, will be in the squad and is definitely an option for next month. The 21-year-old could get a start or two at fullback but his versatility may land him on the replacements’ bench.

“For me, with Joey Carbery playing 15 at Leinster, I wouldn’t be sure that he would only be considered there,” said O’Gara [from 1:04:00 below].

“He played at 10 in the summer, against the USA. People were quick to fault his kicking at goal but his all-round game is exceptional… As a player, he has an aura.

“Players know that when he has the ball that he is capable of doing something that other players are not capable of doing. In that regard, he can light up a team. His work-ons are in terms of managing the game but he has all the other stuff that’s hard to do – he’s able to beat the line with his eyes closed.”

Another option, although less likely to happen, is Ian Madigan. The former Leinster back has played four times in England’s Championship this season [44 points – one try, nine conversions, seven penalties] but missed the recent win over Ealing Trailfinders.

“Ian knows more than anyone that it was his decision to leave [and join Bordeaux],” O’Gara commented. “He decided he had to do what’s best for Ian Madigan.

“What he needs to do now, and he didn’t do it at all last season, was consistently produce. I’m sure if he does that for Bristol he’ll really, really be back in the shake-up for Irish selection.”

If it were down to O’Gara, he would go with Carbery but he has also advised fans not to rule out ‘the forgotten man of Irish rugby’, Ian Keatley.

Carbery, Keatley, Sexton and Carty will all be in Guinness PRO14 inter-provincial action this weekend and there are more inter-pros at the end of October. Throw in European action and there are some massive windows to show the Irish coaches what they can offer.

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