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The glaring Ireland omission Ronan O'Gara can't get his head around

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

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Ireland gathered in Dublin at the start of this week before jetting out to Portugal on Thursday for some warm-weather training ahead of the Guinness Six Nations, but there was one omission from the squad of 37 chosen by Andy Farrell that the legendary Ronan O’Gara couldn’t get his head around. The 2009 Grand Slam winner is immensely busy with his current job in charge of the French club La Rochelle.  

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However, his media work ensures he keeps well informed of the scene in Ireland and he has now questioned what is going on with the national squad selection process after Leinster’s Ciaran Frawley didn’t get a look-in for the upcoming championship. 

The positionally flexible 24-year-old has matured nicely under the tutelage of Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster, starting at inside centre in his seven starts for the Irish province this season but also being able to play at out-half when and if needed. 

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The ability to be able to cover a number of roles is increasingly coveted on the international scene. Look at how often Eddie Jones mentions this when discussing the abilities of players in England.    

This is seemingly less cherished in Ireland judging by how Farrell has included either specialist out-halves or specialist centres in his Six Nations squad, but not a hybrid of both roles. The uncapped Frawley was included in the squad originally selected for the Autumn Nations Series but the decision not to have him involved for the Six Nations surprised O’Gara. 

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Appearing on the OTB AM breakfast show in Ireland to discuss the selection of Farrell’s squad for the upcoming championship, O’Gara said: “It’s very competitive. You might think it is easy to pick 37 but another name jumping straight out at me is Ciaran Frawley, who didn’t make the squad. For me, he is probably the nearest thing to an Aaron Mauger we have on this side of the hemisphere. 

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“He is so adept at playing either ten or twelve, that second receiver role. He looks so, so interesting as a player. He has the physical attributes to play a direct game and then his feet are excellent, his passing game is excellent, his recognition of space is very, very good and he seems to be a threat every time he plays. For him not to be among the best 17 backs is probably incredibly disappointing for him.”

One player who was included was uncapped Ulster full-back Michael Lowry, but O’Gara reckoned he has his hands full given how Hugo Keenan has effectively made the No15 Ireland jersey his own in recent times.  

“You look at the ease with which Lowry glided past Morgan Parra, there aren’t many people who do that over the last twelve years and he did that with ridiculous ease at the weekend in Ravenhill. 

“So he looks like his acceleration is very, very interesting but 15 is a very competitive position and the fact that Keenan just seems to be churning out those eight out of tens every week. That is what teammates like… and he is doing it on both sides of the ball.”

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