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29th May 2015

Ronan O’Gara rounds on ‘internet warriors’ ahead of Munster’s big day out

Backing for an old teammate

Patrick McCarry

Damn those shadowy figures, lurking behind keyboards and clacking their claptrap.

Ronan O’Gara is one former player who, when he sits down to write a column, does it with the poise and commitment he displayed on the pitch.

In his latest Irish Examiner offering, the former Munster and Ireland out-half covers Matt O’Connor’s axing by Leinster, the upcoming Guinness PRO12 final and the half back pairing that may well lead Anthony Foley’s side to glory.

Perhaps prescient of the extent of Conor Murray’s knee injury, O’Gara focuses on scrum-half Duncan Williams and his fractious relationship with the public, or, to be more specific, ‘internet warriors’.

The 29-year-old has been with Munster for eight years and made his senior debut in 2009. Deputy to the likes of Peter Stringer, Tomás O’Leary and, now, Conor Murray, Williams has started only 40 of his 89 games with the province.

O’Gara has criticised Williams’ performances in the past but believes the bulk of the flak he receives is unwarranted. He states:

‘You have to admire [Williams’] resilience, in every sense. He has come through a huge number of form and injury setbacks, but he has hung on for years at Munster when others have fallen by the wayside… I admire him hugely for sticking with it through all that criticism from internet warriors.’

In fairness to the internet warriors, Williams has rarely been given an easy ride by many of his own supporters, nor a host of top journalists.

European Rugby Champions Cup Round 5, Allianz Park, London, England 17/1/2015 Saracens vs Munster Munster's Duncan Williams Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

O’Gara does feel that, while he is a fearless player, Williams sometimes forgets he is a scrum-half, and not a back row.

This was certainly evident when he attempted to go low on a charging Billy Vunipola in Munster’s away loss to Saracens in this season’s Champions Cup.

On O’Connor’s departure from Leinster, O’Gara reveals that the Australian was looking for a contract extension by this October, prompting the provincial board to cut their losses.

O’Gara says earning the respect of a playing squad is a daunting task and believes there is no place for a coach to become too friendly with his squad.

There is nothing in the article to indicate O’Gara would be interested in, or open to, the Leinster job. However, he does believe a new coach must help them ‘make the couple of tweaks required to break Toulon and Clermont’s stranglehold on European rugby;.

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