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O'Gara facing end of the line after Kidney wields axe

By Conor George

Ronan O'Gara's Ireland career looks to be over after head coach Declan Kidney sensationally omitted the 128-cap out-half from a panel of 32 players he has called up for this week's preparation for the Six Nations clash with France.

Kidney instead has preferred two rookie out-halves in Paddy Jackson, who played his first match against Scotland last week, and the uncapped Ian Madigan.

Kidney has also included Jonathan Sexton in the squad, but he is battling to recover fitness after missing the Scotland game because of injury.

This is the first time that O'Gara has been dropped from Ireland's panel of players since he made his debut in 2000, promoting speculation he has played for his country for the last time.

It is an astonishing decision by the Ireland coach and severs yet another link to the so-called 'Golden Generation' of Ireland international players.

Since making his Ireland debut under Warren Gatland, O'Gara has helped guide Ireland to four Triple Crowns and a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009. He also toured with the Lions three times.

The fact that he has been dropped while there are major doubts about Sexton's fitness makes Kidney's decision all the more puzzling.

If Sexton does not recover then Ireland will be relying on a pair of out-halves with just one cap between them. Neither is noted for consistency from placed kicks, which makes the decision all the more astonishing.

The decision to dispense with O'Gara's services clearly suggests that Kidney has written off this year's championship and is now building for next season and, in particular, the 2015 World Cup with the hope that this act will help him earn a new contract.

Kidney has named 32 players in an extended squad and has included Sexton, though the news on the soon-to-be Racing Metro player is not encouraging.

Those close to him have all but accepted he will not be fit enough to feature against France.

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