Irish rally around O’Gara

Ireland’s players have slammed the “appalling” treatment of Ronan O’Gara as the beleaguered fly-half confronts the most challenging period of his career.

Rumours of gambling and marital problems have dogged O’Gara for the past year but only surfaced in print last week during the build-up for Friday’s vital showdown with France.

O’Gara spoke publicly about the slurs after the 25-3 defeat to the hosts, branding them “despicable” and “nonsense”.

Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery is dismayed by the controversy that has overshadowed the critical stage of Ireland’s World Cup group campaign and rallied to his Munster team-mate’s aid on Sunday.

“Ronan’s a friend of mine and he’s disgusted with what’s gone on,” he said.

“That’s his private life and I don’t know why it’s in the press. I don’t really want to talk about it to be honest.

“Everyone’s good friends with Ronan and to see one of our mates treated like that is appalling.”

Donncha O’Callaghan also closed ranks around O’Gara, praising the resilience his Munster colleague has shown.

“It’s terrible and shows how professional he is because if I was in his position I don’t think I could be as strong mentally as he is,” he said.

“All credit to him because last week his eyes were totally on France.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him – he rolls up his sleeves and gets on with it.

“He’s one of the leaders in the squad. To have that rubbish flying around is very annoying.”

Flannery also backed under-fire coach Eddie O’Sullivan, choosing instead to point the accusing finger at the players themselves.

“The criticism of Eddie is very unfair. I don’t see how he can be singled out so much,” he said.

“Eddie isn’t coaching us to drop the ball. If we go out and drop the ball it’s our fault. It’s the same in any rugby side.

“A coach prepares the team as best he can and then they go out on the field and do it.

“All the best teams are coached by the players out on the field. We’re not performing on the field so the buck stops with us.”

Speculation over rifts, in-house fighting and simmering tension has also intensified, but Flannery gave such talk short shrift.

“To say the mood is disillusionment is wrong. We’re not where we want to be at the moment so people are disappointed,” he said.

“We’ve been together so long and we’re not falling out with each other.

“Everyone’s still getting on well. If you’re in a winning side, everyone’s happy because everything’s going great.

“But when you’re losing everyone’s a little bit down. This idea that we’re all bickering genuinely is not true.

“I heard stuff that we’re always fighting in training, people are walking out of the camp and loads of other stuff. I don’t know where it’s coming from.

“It would make for a nice soundbite if all the lads were falling apart over here but we wouldn’t have managed so well for so long in each other’s company if we fell apart after a bad result.

“My girlfriend was sent an e-mail listing some of the stuff that’s supposed to have happened. Some of the talk is crazy.

“Stuff like Geordan Murphy walked out of the camp and some of the lads were seen in Northern Ireland on the drink. It’s ridiculous.

“There’s not two ways about it – we haven’t performed at the World Cup. People are obviously thinking, ‘something must be going on over there’.

“People are looking for a reason for it. It’d be very easy if there was one but there isn’t. We just haven’t performed.

“Off the pitch isn’t a problem. We’ve been our own worst enemy with the amount of silly mistakes we’re making. That’s what has cost us on the field.”

Ireland face Argentina in Paris on Sunday in the last round of group games.

Taking a French win over Georgia as a given, the men in green must score four tries and deny the Pumas a losing bonus-p

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