O'Gara: I can take the rough
Ronan O'Gara believes mental toughness has been the key to his longevity with Ireland as he prepares to win his 95th cap.
Last Updated: 10/02/10 11:50am
Ronan O'Gara feels self-belief has been the key to his longevity in international rugby as he gets set to win his 95th cap for Ireland on Saturday.
The fly-half will start the crunch RBS Six Nations clash with France off the back of scoring 16 points in the 29-11 victory over Italy at Croke Park last weekend.
However, O'Gara knows he cannot afford to let his standards slip with Leinster's Jonathan Sexton, who is likely to be on the bench in Paris, nearing a full recovery from a dead leg.
It was Sexton who prised the Irish number 10 jersey away from the Munster man from last autumn, kicking five penalties to clinch a 15-10 victory over South Africa.
"If you're going to be consistently around for 10 years and treading such a tightrope in games you're going to experience both sides of the coin," an honest O'Gara admitted.
"If you want to succeed, keep coming back and be selected for your country - and I'm lucky to be making my 95th appearance on Saturday - you have to be good at a lot of things.
"But more than anything you must be good at dealing with disappointment and the mental side of the game because at fly-half you're the hero or you get slated.
"Some people can't handle that mentally but that's been a strong trait of mine. I can take the rough times, and by God there have been some rough times.
"You just have to dig in, believe in yourself and keep coming back for more.
"Sometimes it hasn't been easy but it makes you appreciate the great days so much more."
Up until the game against the Springboks last November, O'Gara had been an automatic choice for his country at fly-half.
The 32-year-old admits it hurt to be dropped but that he did not panic, instead using the time out of the team to work out where he had to get better.
"It hurts when you're dropped. It's very disappointing, especially when you care about the team so much," he said.
"When it happens you try to see where you can make improvements. You look at yourself harder but usually you try to blame other people and not yourself.
"When you're dropped there's no need to panic. I had to go away, sort things out and come back.
"I think I've been playing well this season, though I didn't goalkick well. That's a fact and you have to be criticised for these things.
"I needed to address that and that's what I did. I was happy in my own head, even when things weren't going so well."