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O’Gara was deciding factor for Ireland

Declan Kidney acclaimed the bravery of Ronan O’Gara after describing Ireland’s errant fly-half as the decisive influence against England.

Victory came despite a flawed display of place-kicking from O’Gara, who finished with just six points after failing with four shots at goal.

Skipper Brian O’Driscoll’s all-action turn secured the man of the match award but Kidney was equally touched by O’Gara’s refusal to fade into the background.

"I’ve got an awful lot to say for Ronan. He missed those penalties but never retreated into his shell," he said.

"When we needed that last penalty he never shirked it. We needed him and he stepped up. That says much to me.

"How much courage did it take to stand up and hit that last one?

"It’s when things are not going your way that you have to show the courage to keep playing.

"Brian had one of his better days but Ronan dug in and was the deciding factor."

Kidney (below) did his best to draw the spotlight away from O’Driscoll, who landed a drop goal and burrowed over for Ireland’s 61st-minute try.

The Leinster centre gave another lesson in the art of defending and while Paul O’Connell may appear a more natural leader on the pitch, O’Driscoll’s brilliance remains indispensable.

With a Lions tour looming his revival in this year’s Six Nations is well timed, yet Kidney’s assessment of the 30-year-old’s form was measured.

"I’m delighted for Brian. He works hard. Sometimes you look at him when he goes down injured and say ‘for God’s sake, get up Brian!"’ he said.

"I know what he went through to get himself out on the pitch as he had bit of a hamstring strain during the week.

"He’s gone about his business greatly. He can defend that outside centre channel very well.

"Every team’s defence has become so good that there’s less and less space for outside centres. It’s a tactical thing.

"Brian is a big player for us and our captain but is playing well in a team that is going well.”

Remaining true to form, Kidney furiously distanced Ireland from any talk of the Grand Slam despite moving within two wins of the clean sweep.

Ireland now travel to Scotland for their penultimate match as favourites to win the Six Nations title, but Kidney still believes his side are punching above their weight.

"There’s a lot of experience in our team. They’ve been down different roads in the past but we know there’s no-one like Scotland to disturb a party."

Belfast Telegraph


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