FOR MONTHS NOW, there has been a considerable debate over who should be Ireland’s starting out half.
If you’re from Munster, you’d be likely to point to O’Gara’s faultless substitute appearance against Australia and his generally competent displays in the tournament so far, as evidence to suggest he should be starting.
You’d also be likely to bring up Sexton’s recent performances – the player has looked somewhat nervy on occasion, with his goal-kicking in particular, appearing unusually erratic.
Meanwhile, Leinster fans will remind us that Sexton has a tendency to come good when it matters most – the Heineken Cup final and his consummate display after replacing Contemponi as a substitute for Leinster in the 2009 European Cup semi-final are two prime examples in which Sexton demonstrated his ability to rise to the occasion.
O’Gara doubters will also express concern about the Munster man’s perceived weakness in defence, expressing the view that Sexton ultimately represents the more solid option, despite the recent flaws that have been evident in his kicking game.
Moreover, there is an alternative argument, which suggests that both players should start in a manner reminiscent to how Ireland finished against Australia, with O’Gara at fly-half and Sexton in the centre.
The doubts regarding Gordon D’Arcy’s fitness have served to strengthen calls for both players to be accommodated, in spite of the Irish team’s lack of familiarity with this set-up.
So what do you think? Should Jonny Sexton or Ronan O’Gara be chosen to start against Italy?