Ronan O'Gara's brutally honest admission about how he once reacted to high-pressure kicks
If you want someone to tell it like it is, ask Ronan O'Gara a rugby question.
The former Munster and Ireland outhalf is now teaching Racing 92's players the art of defence, backline play and goal-kicking.
However, as recently as 2013 he was landing big kicks in huge games.
In his latter years, O'Gara revelled in the high-pressure situations in which he made his name - matchwinner; closer; clutch; balls of steel.
Penalties, conversions or drop goals, O'Gara did it all.
It wasn't always that way.
In The New Breed: Irish Rugby's Professional Era, O'Gara admits there are lows attached to being a team's goal-kicker.
'Jesus, yeah,' he says, 'and especially if you’re a kicker, and especially if you are lucky enough to play in an awful lot of pressurised games.
'I make the point that the No.10 position, the kicker position, is unlike any other.
'It’s a team game, but I often say to Johnny [Sexton] and the other players, "Every time you take to the pitch, you will be judged and read inside out." That’s a great responsibility to have, but you have a direct influence on the results.
'If you kick poorly you’re probably going to lose, unless the [other] team are also very poor. At the highest level, in professional Test matches, that isn’t the case. That’s something you have to embrace and go for.'
'The honest, brutal truth'
O'Gara believes the best lessons he learned in rugby derived from negative situations and bad defeats.
He continued, 'You become mentally strong by adapting the lessons learned from bad days and making your resolve stronger. So, the next time that situation comes, you’re going to perform.
'I’ve had that every second season of my career, and – by the end – I was good at the pressure moments. I craved that. I could see this day was coming and I’d say, "Bring it on. Let’s go."
'Quite early in my playing days, if we were 21–15 down I’d think, “Jesus, please don’t score, please don’t score,” because I’d have to kick the conversion to win it.
'Or, if it was a penalty at 14–12 [down], for a while I’d be half hoping the penalty went against us. I suppose I just didn’t believe in myself, you know.
'That was me at the start, and that’s the way it was.'
The Cork native went on to give an even more intimate, graphic insight into the pressure facing goal-kickers at the highest levels.
'That’s another interesting argument in terms of goal-kickers. How many of them always [talk] in terms of a technical breakdown when something goes wrong?
'No one’s going to say, when they’re standing over a ball, “I actually shat myself.”
'I know because that’s what happens at times. It’s the honest, brutal truth.'
'For a second,' he added, 'you probably let the occasion – “There are 80,000 people watching me here now” – [get to you] and you’re gone. You’ve lost it. It’s very hard to get it back.
'You think you get it back and you’re in the zone, but you nearly have to be robotic. And then, if you’re robotic, is that the right technique?
'You just have to blot everything out, but are you human then?
'You have to realise where you are. That’s why it’s a fascinating subject.'
*You can find more on O'Gara, and more, in The New Breed: Irish Rugby's Professional Era