by Micil Glennon
Munster out-half Ronan O'Gara has paid tribute to Declan Kidney but says the recently-departed coach made the wrong selection call for the Six Nations loss to Scotland.
Under Kidney, O'Gara led from the front as Munster claimed historical Heineken Cup victories in 2006 and 2008, as well as landing the match-winning drop-goal as Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2009.
While being left out of the squad to play France hurt, O’Gara acknowledged the role the former Ireland head coach played in his career.
“I was omitted from the squad a few weeks ago and that was really, really disappointing, and then Deccie got his news yesterday and I’m sure he’s hugely disappointed,” he said.
“I know the man really well, he’s been there for my whole career so it would be remiss of me not to compliment him on what he’s achieved.
“The last few years haven’t been great but the Grand Slam was a masterstroke really, but that’s the standard we need to be at. We need to be contesting Grand Slams every year and the last few years we haven’t been.
“In this business you get moved on for the next person, unfortunately that’s what’s happened to Deccie. I had mixed times with him, I’ve had great times and some challenging times but I respect the man.
"When I watched the news last night and I saw Cardiff (winning the Grand Slam in 2009), we’re on a stage and that’s why you play sport but we need to get back to that stage."
The 36-year-old also revealed his frustration at being overlooked to start the Scotland game in the most recent championship.
Ireland had begun the campaign with a win over Wales but after Jonathan Sexton was injured in the second game against England, Paddy Jackson was preferred for the Murrayfield clash.
As it transpired, the Ulster player, making his championship debut, missed three kicks at goal in the 12-8 defeat.
O’Gara feels that, given the circumstances, he should have started.
"I thought I would have done the job against Scotland, and then at least you can walk off into the sunshine happy" - Ronan O'Gara
He said: “Obviously, I probably thought for the Scottish game I was the better option but that would change in the summer time with the new boys being promoted and that’s what I would have backed as well.
“But for a crucial away game, I thought I would have done the job against Scotland, and then at least you can walk off into the sunshine happy but that’s the way it goes.
“I was disappointed at the time, gutted at the time.”
Despite dropping down the pecking order, the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 Six Nations top scorer has not given up on his international career.
O’Gara has played 128 times for his country and was surprisingly omitted from the squad for the second last game, with stand-offs Sexton, 27, Jackson, 21, and Ian Madigan, 24, at the head of the line.
Asked if he was still committed to Ireland, O’Gara replied: “Of course, I think of the fellas who have been here as long as I have, there isn’t a prouder man.
“Rugby has given me everything and I am so thankful for that. I get such a buzz out of it, that’s why I want to play on.
"People would say, ‘Why wouldn't he walk [away] after all he has achieved?’ but there’s no crime in playing a game you love and I just want to maximise that.
"But there’s a time [to retire], and it’s very close and I don’t know if it’s the end of this season or next season. That’s exactly where I am.
“There’s a special buzz in playing Test rugby. Stuff like that drives me.
“The easy thing for players coming in now is that they expect to win Heineken Cup buts there were about 10 people in Irish rugby who created that path.
"It’s easy to repeat the foray, the trek to the North Pole [but] it’s the first fellas that did it is what I take pride in, that’s what motivates me, consistently delivering week-in, week-out," he added.