x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A vote of confidence for O'Gara

Brian O'Driscoll believes the Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara answered his critics in Sunday's 20-20 draw with Australia at Croke Park.

Brian O'Driscoll believes the Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara answered his critics in Sunday's 20-20 draw with Australia at Croke Park. O'Gara's erratic year has continued into the new season with the Leinster youngster Jonathan Sexton being touted as a genuine alternative for Ireland's No 10 jersey. But O'Driscoll, the influential captain, was impressed by the Munster veteran's display against the Wallabies, despite his loose pass that enabled Australia's winger Drew Mitchell to give his team a third minute lead.

"I thought Ronan was really good. He controlled the game very well and passed very well," he said. "That first pass was a fraction too deep but we'll take 50-50 blame for that. His kicking was good and he read things well. "It was a big performance - not that any of his teammates who have played with him a lot of time felt he needed it." O'Gara converted O'Driscoll's try with the last kick of the match to secure Ireland a share of the spoils. It was no more than the Grand Slam champions deserved, given their refusal to concede defeat after the former Leinster back row, Rocky Elsom, crossed in the 62nd minute to give Australia a 20-13 lead.

With Ireland throwing everything they had at the Wallabies, Tommy Bowe almost wriggled over for his second try before O'Driscoll intervened at the crucial moment to score. Eight months after leading Ireland to their Grand Slam, O'Driscoll is among seven nominees for the IRB player of the year, along with his countryman Jamie Heaslip. They join two South Africa players, Francois Steyn and Fourie du Preez, New Zealand's Richie McCaw, Australia's Matt Giteau and England's Tom Croft on the short list. The winner will be announced late this month.

* PA Sport