Former Ireland international Ronan O’Gara has explained the comments he made about Johnny Sexton’s role as the Irish captain saying they were misinterpreted.
Speaking in the week after Ireland’s disastrous 24-12 defeat to England, the Munster legend suggested that his former understudy may have enough on his plate without having to deal with the pressure of leading the side as captain. He told Off The Ball that he was not a fan of the appointment from the outset.
Sexton took offence to the comments and when asked about them at a press conference later that week, the 34-year-old suggested that O’Gara focuses on his own rugby concerns.
“I got some great advice recently. When you’re leading in an orchestra, you’ve got to turn your back on the audience,” said Sexton.
“That’s something you’ve got to live by and, sometimes, when it’s going well, you can fall into bad habits and have a little peek at what’s going on in the audience.
“I thought ROG was coaching at La Rochelle, I don’t know why he’s talking about us.”
Speaking ahead of England’s clash with Wales on Virgin Media Sport, O’Gara moved to clarify his comments, insisting that Sexton deserves to be captain and that he was judging the situation based on his own rare experiences.
“It was more a compliment, but if you read the headline it’s kind of that you feel that he’s not the right person. When you go through the team I think he deserves and has every right to be the captain. That wasn’t the point all.
“From my experience of being in the hot pressured situations which may only arrive once a season, or may not at all, I was very lucky in the fact that if it was Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell, they were standout captains anyway.
“It was more the idea that if there was a 50/50 decision to be made, in terms of kicking at goal or kicking for the corner, sometimes inside of you you go ‘I’ll go to the line’ when 13 others could be screaming ‘we need the points here, we need a breather, our front five are really tired’.
"There was no need for hysterics about it."
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) March 7, 2020
“That was the thing. There was no need for hysterics.
Former Leinster and Ireland star Shane Horgan also weighed in on the issue agreeing that Sexton has too many pressures on his shoulders.
“He’s the ten, he’s the talisman, he’s the coach’s voice on the field, he’s a decision-maker, he’s the captain. It’s too much.”