Ronan O’Gara’s glittering international career could be over after he was dropped from the 32-man Ireland training squad ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with France.
The veteran Munster fly-half, who turns 36 on Thursday, was left out by Declan Kidney yesterday, the coach instead turning to Leinster No 10 Ian Madigan.
Jonathan Sexton is included despite indications last week that he would not be ready for the France encounter, after suffering a hamstring injury against England three weeks ago.
Paddy Jackson, who started in the 12-8 loss to Scotland and had a bad day with his goal-kicking, returned to form by kicking seven from nine in Ulster’s 29-29 draw with Treviso on Friday and he is the other fly-half in the extended squad.
Sexton’s injury began something of a merry-go-round with the Irish No 10 jersey, and the decision to drop O’Gara is the latest change of tack by Kidney.
The Munster man started on the bench against Wales and England before replacing Sexton in the first half of the latter clash, though he could not help prevent Ireland falling to a 12-6 defeat.
Kidney then chose to leapfrog Jackson from third-choice to first-choice for the Scotland game, with O’Gara again failing to inspire Ireland upon his introduction. And now O’Gara has been jettisoned completely, raising the possibility that his 13-year, 128-cap international career could be at an end.
It is the first time since O’Gara made his debut against Scotland in February 2000 that he has not been selected in an Ireland match-day squad when fully fit.
The IRFU’s official squad announcement last night made no reference to O’Gara’s omission, instead focusing on the absence of backs Robbie Henshaw and Darren Cave.
Almost lost in the news of O’Gara’s omission was that Ulster prop Tom Court has also been dropped.
Court deputised at loose head against the Scots with Cian Healy suspended, but the Leinster men’s return has seen Court left out, with David Kilcoyne and Declan Fitzpatrick set to provide back-up to Healy and Mike Ross.
Kidney has handed a handful of other players the chance to put their hand up for inclusion in the 23-man match-day squad, which is due to be named at lunchtime tomorrow.
Andrew Trimble is included after his try-scoring exploits for Ulster, alongside provincial colleagues Robbie Diack, Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy.
Munster flanker Tommy O’Donnell and Leinster backs Eoin O’Malley and Dave Kearney have been called up too, while Leinster prop Healy is back after his suspension was reduced by a week.
Mike McCarthy’s medial knee ligament injury has progressed well; he was tested at the end of last week and is fit enough to be considered for the France clash.
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