Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

O'Gara moves to silence all the French detractors

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has attempted to draw a line in the sand over the off-field controversy surrounding Ronan O'Gara.

The outhalf, who has only been a shadow of himself during Ireland's three below-par displays in France that have left the side on the verge of a humiliating World Cup exit, was subject to an allegation about his personal life in French sports newspaper L'Equipe last week.

In a brave move to silence the rumour-mongers, O'Gara dramatically opened his heart in the aftermath of Ireland's 25-3 defeat to France at the Stade de France, speaking openly about the allegations about gambling debts and the state of his marriage.

"The most important thing is that people who know me realise there is no truth in these stories whatsoever," said O'Gara.

"I'll be seeking advice to find out what is the best way for my wife and I to deal with the stories.

"The gambling affront doesn't bother me because I'll say it straight up - I do back horses and do it frequently.

"I own racehorses and have placed bets since I was 18. It was said in L'Equipe that I owed 300,000 euros. That's a load of nonsense."

The 30-year-old has also been hurt by suggestions that his marriage is over, a slur he branded "despicable" as he spoke publicly about the rumours for the first time.

" Talk about disputes in your marriage and being told you've been kicked out of your own home is the lowest of the low.

"The fact I have a troubled marriage is quite disappointing to hear. It's not for me to say I have a perfect marriage," he said.

"Like everyone else little things happen but that's behind closed doors at home. I love my wife and she loves me, that's all I can say on the matter.

"There have been rumours about me going around for a year now. The only good thing is that it's all come out and has now been put to bed."

While O'Gara is a resilient character, the problem for Ireland is that the controversy seems to have affected his form.

But with Ireland needing to beat pool D leaders Argentina by four tries and prevent Los Pumas from getting a bonus point to reach the quarter-finals, O'Sullivan backed his play-maker.

"Ronan has coped very well with the pressure," said O'Sullivan. "People will look at his performance against France and probably point the finger at him.

"For Ronan to play in a good zone he needs a good flow of possession. One of our key sources of possession wasn't the best part of our game, so you have to factor that into his performance.

"They're all over now. What more can you say about them? I don't believe they have distracted him. People might disagree but I'm more of a view to look at the possession he got last night when rating his performance."

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