Ronan O’Gara has spoken about the pressures and routines kickers go through during the place-kicking elements of their games.
With Jonathan Sexton out of Ireland’s Six Nations opener, the issue of who will start at out-half and assume kicking duties has become a hotly debated topic.
Ian Madigan, normally an extremely accurate kicker, had an off day with the boot during Leinster’s final Champions Cup pool game, a 20-20 draw with Wasps.
Madigan has an opportunity to right that wrong immediately after being selected to start at out-half for Ireland Wolfhounds against the England Saxons, and O’Gara praised the management decision to give Madigan the chance to get himself back on track.
Analysing the elements that affect kickers, O’Gara agreed with Jonathan Sexton, who revealed some of the small external factors that have distracted him from his kicks - including on one occasion when he could hear the crying of a baby in the crowd at a game.
“People have to understand that you’re not dealing with robots, and at time, you’re the exact same as the 80,000 people in the ground watching you,” O'Gara told RTÉ Sport.
"And then there are other times when it’s just so easy, and you feel like you’re nearly dreaming in bed about it."
He said that it was hugely important that Ireland’s goal-kicker was in form coming into a tournament such as the Six Nations. “They need to be four out of five, five out of five, five out of six, seven out of nine," O'Gara added. "Those kind of stats are what’ll win you the championship."
O’Gara likened it to the concentration needed for a golfer, and said that kickers occupied a unique position within a rugby team, in that they played a kind of individual sport within a team contest.
“You think about soccer; there are probably 20 players on the pitch all trying to score a goal, so the skill is the same for all the players on the pitch,” he said.
“In hurling and football you’ve everyone trying to get a point or a goal, and you have designated free-takers.
“But in rugby, the Paul O’Connells, the Cian Healys, the Sean O’Briens, the Robbie Henshaws, the Zebos, the Rob Kearneys: they’re looking to score tries, and they’re not really too bothered about the goal-kicking.
“They don’t actually have any input into that from Monday to Saturday at all. There’s one person who takes that, and that’s the Johnny Sextons, the Ian Madigans, the Ian Keatleys of this world, where for that 60 seconds they’re essentially like a golfer trying to put it in the middle of the fairway or the middle of the green.
“And they just have to zone in and then zone out and then play a team sport.”
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