O’Gara gets the nod for Ireland clash with Italy

Ireland have named Ronan O’Gara and Conor Murray to start in Sunday’s crucial 2011 Rugby World Cup match against Italy.


O’Gara replaced Jonathan Sexton at flyhalf in the lineup announced Friday and Murray starts ahead of Eoin Reddin at scrumhalf in the only changes to the side that beat Australia 15-6 two weeks ago to take control of Pool C.


Italy need to beat Ireland in Dunedin to reach the quarterfinals for the first time, a result that could eliminate the Irish.


Murray was on the bench for the Australia match and the subsequent win over Russia, with his only previous start being in the opening win over the United States.


“He’s new to it but he’s dealing with it extremely really well,” captain Brian O’Driscoll said. “He’s a confident young man and he’s very much in his depth in these surroundings. You wouldn’t know he had only a handful of test matches under his belt.


“He goes about his business and he’s a nice young fella. What’s not to like about that?”


Murray will make only his fifth appearance in the green shirt, but O’Gara will start outside him to add his experience.


Ireland’s all-time leading scorer with 1,054 points – a total bettered in international rugby by only Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson – the 114-times capped O’Gara was a steadier option than the younger Sexton.


But coach Declan Kidney denied he had picked him at No. 10 purely for his kicking, which salvaged a 13-11 win over the Italians in this year’s Six Nations with a late dropped goal.


“I don’t think I’ve ever in my life picked a guy just for his place kicking,” Kidney said. “Ronan’s playing well.”


Tommy Bowe returns on the wing, O’Driscoll is in at outside center, Keith Earls switches back out wide and Gordon D’Arcy comes in at inside center.


O’Driscoll said he is anticipating a fiercely competitive match.


“Each game against them in the last 4-5 years has been getting harder and harder,” O’Driscoll said. “We really had to pull it out the bag to beat them in Rome.


“We always thought we could beat Australia but it hasn’t made the group any different. We still have to beat Italy in the final game.”


Ireland:


Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy.


Reserves: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble.

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