O'Gara misses out on Lions revenge as Irish try Sexton

Fly-half will sit out first major international in six years

It remains to been seen whether it is a definitive changing of the guard for Ireland, but when the reigning Grand Slam champions of Europe take on the World Cup holders at Croke Park on Saturday, Ronan O'Gara will be kicking his heels on the bench rather than calling the shots on the field in the No 10 shirt.

For the first time in six years, since the days when Ulster's David Humphreys was snapping at his heels for selection, O'Gara has lost his position as Ireland's first-choice outside half. The 32-year-old Munsterman has been overtaken by Leinster's 24-year-old Jonathan Sexton – for the time being, at least.

The Sunday before last, O'Gara landed the last-gasp conversion that earned Ireland a 20-20 draw against Australia at Croke Park, but Sexton's impressive showing on his debut against Fiji at the Royal Dublin Showground last Saturday has swayed Ireland's head coach, Declan Kidney. Sexton kicked 16 points and produced an outstanding all-round performance in the 41-6 win against the Fijians and will now get the chance to show what he can do against the side O'Gara faced on the Lions tour.

"I know we have a world-class fly-half in Ronan O'Gara but I need to find out more about Jonathan Sexton," Kidney said at the team announcement in Dublin yesterday. "I thought Jonathan had a good game last weekend but, with respect, Fiji were short of a few players so it was difficult to read. I just need to find out more.

"I worked with Jonathan last year. We gave him a nod for the A-team and he answered a lot of questions. We just need to roll the team. I know we have Ronan and there will be disappointment that he's not playing but I can't play everybody all the time. Because I need to find things out, there's no right time and there's no wrong time I just decided to give Jonathan a go this time. He showed great maturity against Fiji and I wasn't surprised. Last year, when things weren't going well for him, he stuck at it.

"Ronan is disappointed but he's the perfect pro. He's taken it on the chin, Ronan being Ronan. He has continued training and contributed to the team exactly as he would normally. It doesn't matter that it was a difficult call. My job is to pick the team."

Sexton was the epitome of assurance against Fiji in the chief playmaker role. He was much the same at the business end of the Heineken Cup last season, stepping in for the injured Puma Felipe Contepomi and helping to guide Leinster to victory in the semi-final against Munster and against Leicester in the final at Murrayfield. Sadly, the same could not be said of O'Gara when it came to the crunch with the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in the summer.

His ill-judged challenge on Fourie Du Preez gave Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn the chance to settle the series with a long range last-minute penalty in the second test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. It was a rush of blood to a bandaged and somewhat dazed head that has continued to give O'Gara sleepless nights this season. When fit and available for selection, he has not been left out of a major international for Ireland since the World Cup pool game against Argentina in Adelaide in 2003.

The hope for Kidney is that Sexton can help to give the Springboks some cause for insomnia in Dublin this Saturday night. The Ireland coach has made six changes to the team that saw off Fiji, with Cian Healy, David Wallace, Donncha O'Callaghan, Tommy Bowe, Paddy Wallace and Tomas O'Leary all returning. Back-rower Denis Leamy has overcome an ankle injury and has been named as a replacement. Also on the bench is O'Gara's long-term half-back partner Peter Stringer, who has been given the nod as shadow scrum-half ahead of Eoin Reddan.

Asked whether the Springboks' losses to France, Leicester and Saracens had cranked up the pressure for Saturday's Test, Kidney said: "We're sort of lined up aren't we? This will be the last week of their season and we know we are a bit of a target. It would be a fine finish to their season, beating us on our own patch. They will be very motivated."

Ireland team v South Africa

Ireland team to play South Africa (Saturday, Croke Park, 2.30pm): R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (capt) (Leinster), P Wallace (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster); D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster), P Stringer (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster).

Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game