Ronan O'Gara on "the biggest eye-opener ever"

Ireland and Munster legend also discusses the Austin Healey story

Ronan O'Gara, Lions, 2001,

Ronan O'Gara ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

Ronan O'Gara says the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour was a real eye-opener for the Irish players. 

The ex-Ireland out half was discussing the issue of confidence on Off The Ball alongside former tea-mate Brian O'Driscoll and how it wasn't necessarily over-flowing for him early on.

O'Gara and O'Driscoll were both on that tour to Australia in 2001 and they were joined by a core of the England squad that would power their way to World Cup glory in 2003 with Jonny Wilkinson among those in the travelling party.

"For me, the 2001 Lions tour was the biggest eye-opener ever," he told the Olympia audience.

"We were extremely lucky that batch of Irish players that went on that to see 24 months later that core of the Lions team winning the World Cup with England.

Ronan O'Gara, Tyrone Howe, Rob Henderson, Malcolm O'Kelly, Keith Wood, David Wallace, Jeremy Davidson and Brian O'Driscoll in 2001 ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

"It was scary how far ahead they were. I was rooming with Rob Howley and I remember and he was probably 8-10 years older than me, a world class player, I was a rookie out half.

"Rooming with him, I kind of whipped into my baggy boxers, whipped over the covers, straight into bed and your man was in his kind of speedo briefs and he had about a 10-pack. I was like 'Jesus, is he playing the same sport as I'm playing'. So the toasted special and chips was finished that night. It was a lovely protein shake for the next 10 years."

O'Gara is the central character of story from that Lions tour which culminated in Brian O'Driscoll beating England's Austin Healey in an impromptu boxing bout.

Healey had questioned the veracity of the tale but ROG put it to bed: "Brian boxed the head off him. I think there was more of a fun element to it too though. He didn't really think it was happening while it was happening. It did happen. Black and white. Case closed."

But he did add that Healey is "great craic on a Tour" but that he was also "mischievous".

O'Gara also spoke about his long and close friendship with O'Driscoll which rose above the Munster-Leinster rivalry of the era.

Speaking of Munster and Leinster, O'Gara's deliberate pronunciation of place names like Sandymount and Dalkey drew gales of laughter from the Olympia audience and O'Driscoll: