Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

O'Gara is target man for Wales

Ronan O'Gara

Get O'Gara. That will be the Welsh policy today as they head into their World Cup quarter-final showdown in Wellington believing that stopping Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara is the key to a place in the semi-finals.

Wales coach Warren Gatland yesterday opted to leave James Hook on the bench, with Rhys Priestland at out-half and Leigh Halfpenny at full-back, but it is the Irish playmaker who is to the forefront of Welsh thoughts.

Wales famously went after O'Gara in Cardiff two years ago, only for the Irish out-half to pop over the winning drop goal to secure Ireland's first Grand Slam in 61 years -- and Priestland is fully aware of his importance to the green cause.

"We have to manage O'Gara," said Priestland. "He is probably one of the best kickers in the game. I have played against him a few times and have always been impressed with the way he organises the game and the forwards."

Ireland confirmed yesterday that Rory Best would start at hooker with Sean Cronin on the bench, and second-row Paul O'Connell, who captained seven of the Welsh team on the 2009 Lions tour, says the team are using the "win or go home" factor as their motivation tomorrow.

"This is just one game," said O'Connell.

"Before the last game we spoke about how, if we didn't win against Italy, we were going home and it's the same this week.

"We don't look beyond that. We treat this game as our cup final. It worked for us last week. We were mentally in the right place.

"Even when we were 9-6 up at half-time, we were still willing to dog it out and do what we had to do to win. It's the same this weekend. If we don't win, we're going home.

"In terms of creating anything for the team, we just can't look beyond this game.

"We'll just have to go out and give it everything in this game."