O'Gara to put the boot in
Ronan O'Gara is eager to learn from Neil Jenkins to ensure the Lions' kicking game is spot-on in South Africa.
Last Updated: 09/06/09 8:56am
Ronan O'Gara is eager to learn from Neil Jenkins to ensure the British and Irish Lions' kicking game is spot-on for the upcoming Tests with South Africa.
Irishman O'Gara is battling it out with Welshmen Stephen Jones and James Hook for the fly-half spot in the Lions side, but all three are working together to improve their kicking game.
O'Gara admits that playing at altitude was a problem as the Lions sneaked past a Royal XV at Rustenburg in their tour opener, but says that there was an improvement after a few days of adjustment.
"I suppose the big thing that struck me was the fact that we were like robots or imbeciles on the pitch in the first game," O'Gara said.
"I slightly underestimated the affects of altitude - the mind was telling me one thing but the body wouldn't get into a position to do it.
"But after eight days we showed the benefits of it and feel a lot fresher. Obviously we're back at sea level for this one so we just have to adjust the kicking, you can see the ball doesn't hang quite as much and swirl as much and that's something you have to take into account."
O'Gara and Jones will battle it out to start for the Lions, with Hook as a back-up, and their kicking performance could well be the deciding factor.
Jenkins is on his way to join up with the squad on Thursday to lend his kicking expertise, and despite O'Gara having vast experience himself, he is always eager to learn.
"The kicking game has gone well but there's so much more to a kicking game than a goal-kicking game," O'Gara said during the build-up to the fourth game of the tour against the Sharks on Wednesday.
"It will be interesting in that we haven't done much in terms of an attacking kicking game or much in a strategic kicking game. But that's an area I'm looking forward to exploring. If you can get the right kind of kick it's very, very hard for you to defend."
Jenkins played a key role in the Lions' victorious tour of South Africa 12 years ago with his kicking accuracy, and either O'Gara or Jones will be needed to do the same this time around.
But despite a fierce battle for the number ten shirt, both men share a respectful relationship.
"I started off the same time as Stephen started off," O'Gara said. "I have huge respect for Stephen. The greatest compliment I can give him is that he's still there at the top. A lot of the others have fallen off or lost form or crumbled under the pressure but he's still there and that's testament to him.
"I have a great relationship with Stephen not just because we're from the same position. I'm competitive, he's competitive. But you can get beyond that and you can have a good working relationship."