Ronan O'Gara Ireland future remains uncertain

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The Independent Online

Ronan O'Gara today sought to end doubt over his Ireland future post-World Cup, yet succeeded only in fueling further speculation.

The Lions fly-half had suggested in a television interview after Saturday's stunning 15-6 victory over Australia that his 11-year international career was almost over.



"I'm done with Ireland in a few weeks. I've had a great time in this jersey but I want this to be the biggest time," he told RTE.



Needing to clarify his comments, O'Gara stated that he was referring to the end of the World Cup and not his own position.



But his explanation was cloaked in ambiguity with his claim that only "losers" quit when faced by a challenge undermined by the words "in my own head I'll reassess at the end of the World Cup".



The latter comment was delivered immediately after admitting, "it's important for me to put an end to this because it's a distraction the team don't need".



The 34-year-old - the oldest member of Ireland's squad - has been replaced as first choice fly-half by Jonathan Sexton, who started both World Cup games against the United States and Australia.



When asked if he had considered quitting the Test arena in recent months, he gave a typically forthright answer.



"Retirement has crossed my mind plenty of times over the last few years," said O'Gara, who is contracted to the Irish Rugby Football Union until 2013.



"There are plenty of thoughts in your head when you're disappointed, but it's losers who quit when things aren't going so well for them.



"Retirement hasn't entered my head seriously in that regard. I'm a fighter and I'll keep fighting until the end. I'm not sure when the end is.



"When you set goals for yourself - be they short, medium or long term - they always ended with the World Cup.



"Playing for Ireland means so much you don't walk away from the team until it's right.



"You take advice from people you respect on that front. I'm not at that stage.



"On Saturday I was speaking in the context of being done with Ireland in six or seven weeks' time in terms of this World Cup.



"I said I'm done with Ireland in a few weeks and there are different interpretations of that."



Far from issuing the definitive denial that he plans to retire, O'Gara instead painted a shade of grey that has generated only further uncertainty.



To his credit, the fiercely-competitive Munster veteran made no effort to deny that he has struggled playing second fiddle in a position he has held for so long and with such distinction.



"There's good competition between Jonny and I. It will take two outside halves to win the competition, I'm fully aware of that," he said.



"I have huge respect for him and I know he has good respect for me. That's hugely important.



"Naturally both of us would love to be on the pitch and there are certain benefits to that, but in competition you can't have that.



"This has been going for two years since he's come into the team.



"It's been there since day one and I struggled for the first few months getting used to it.



"I've tried in the last year or so. It's hugely important that both of us show true form.



"The way it's going both of us will have roles and that's what you must have at top Test level."



Ireland produced the performance of the World Cup and their greatest victory in the tournament when they routed Tri-Nations champions Australia, but O'Gara accepts it will be difficult to maintain the level of intensity they produced at Eden Park.



"Irish teams are at their best when they're full of emotion," he said.



"As Paul O'Connell has said, you can't go to the well every week in rugby, otherwise you'd be drained. Mentally it takes huge amounts out of you.



"We were at the right pitch physically and mentally the other night. You saw how we could play.



"The question is how do we reach that pitch every week? That's something we aspire to do.



"We will have to reproduce that performance against Australia or else we're going home."



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