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Ronan O'Gara: My Autobiography

Release date: 20th June, 2009
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £8.99
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Ronan O'Gara
My Autobiography
Yellow Jersey Press price: £ 5.59, saving 30% on rrp

Here's a quiz question worth posing to rugby union buffs: which player holds the record for the highest number of points scored in the Six Nations championship?

The most likely response is Jonny Wilkinson. After all, between 2000-09, he notched an incredible 419 points for England, including 4 tries and 74 of those clasp-your-hands-together penalties, but that would not be the correct answer. The honour belongs to Ireland's Ronan O'Gara who, over the same period, has scored a phenomenal 499 points, a tally that includes nine tries and 99 penalties.

At one point in O'Gara's excellent autobiography, he talks of being in awe of Jonny when they first practised together during a Lions tour; I suspect that after celebrating another Grand Slam win last spring, O'Gara is in awe of few fellow rugby stars nowadays.

He has enjoyed a glittering career, winning two Heineken Cups (twice losing in the final), and has already accumulated 92 Irish caps, scoring for his country at the rate of almost exactly ten points per game. Yet to a degree, he remains in Brian O'Driscoll's lengthy shadow. O'Gara is the 'other' Irish back; not quite as stocky nor powerful, but a marvellous tactician and an excellent kicker.

Not as though such comparison bothers O'Gara who is fulsome in his praise for the buddy he calls 'Drico'. Whereas the latter can "laugh, joke and be chilled out" on a match day - at least until he crosses the white line - O'Gara is a different beast, one who shuns publicity. "I'm not comfortable being a face that people recognise," he writes. On match days in particular, he hates being approached by people who want an autograph or a photograph: "All I'm thinking about is the match," he says. "My nerves are in s***, my stomach is turning. I can't break away from that and make small talk with strangers."

Perhaps such reticence to be a public figure explains the forcefulness with which O'Gara shoots down several of the accusations that have an unfortunate habit of clinging to high-profile sportsmen and women. Squashing rumours can be like 'trying to shoot a ghost' he says, but as far as this reviewer is concerned, he does a pretty convincing job when emphatically refuting a series of unfounded off-field allegations.

His sense of frustration at having to contend with such nonsense is palpable, although it has hardly had a negative impact on his on-field performances.

While it could be argued that O'Gara has not received the recognition he deserves as an outstanding rugby player, the pages of this award-winning book, published in paperback last week, suggest that the Six Nations all-time leading points scorer is unperturbed. He appreciates that sporting careers are laced with setback as well as triumph and remains sanguine.

This is not to say he and ghost writer David Walsh have produced a bland, wishy-washy tale; far from it. O'Gara's autobiography is opinionated, in parts extremely funny and never less than interesting. Rather like the man himself.

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