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"I don't believe I had the self-confidence ROG had" | Humphreys on rivalry

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

15:48 31 Mar 2020


David Humphreys joined Monday Night Rugby on Off The Ball to relive some early noughties rivalry with Ronan O'Gara.

O'Gara's prickliness is renowned and well documented, particularly his relationship or lack thereof with Johnny Sexton in the early days. Humphreys says their relationship was different, "We always go on quite well."

The "ding-dongs' the pair got involved in were generally confined to the provincial setup when they were wearing opposing jerseys, rather than any hostility at Ireland camps. "They were never as bad as that," when the Ulster man was reminded of Sexton and O'Gara's silent car journeys.

Humphreys identified a couple of reasons why the pair's rivalry lacked some ferocity. One was the different stages the players were at in their careers.

"I wanted that Ireland team to be successful," says the Ballymena man with an implied maturity.
"I knew that Ronan was going to have a much, much longer Ireland career than I was and it was a case of me hanging in there for as long as possible, I loved every minute of it."
Prescient, given O'Gara would go on to pass him out on the all-time points scoring list and surpass him as Ireland's most capped out-half. Sexton has since relegated Humphreys to third on both lists.

Confidence

The other crucial different Humphreys identified between the pair could explain the hostility of the initial Sexton - O'Gara interactions. It was the confidence felt when wearing a provincial jersey wasn't immediately translated to the Ireland shirt.
"The big difference (between the pair) it ultimately came down to," explained the Ulster number ten. "Every time I pulled on an Ulster jersey I felt confident I could deliver and perform at that level."
"I don't believe I had the self-confidence that ROG had, and that’s a huge compliment to him.
"That self-confidence, that when I pulled on an Ireland jersey that I could perform at that same level and compete at that same level."
Humphreys saw first-hand the different breed of player that was coming through at that time, confidence-wise. He feels it was crucial to changing Ireland's fortunes.
"The change of mindset was the single biggest thing for that group of players who came through."
"They had that belief. When they were playing for Munster they were winning all the time. When they played for Leinster they were winning all the time."
Humphreys says that confidence from winning at provincial level was the key to the future success in green jerseys: "That's ultimately what transformed that Ireland team."

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