Ronan O’Gara believes Ireland back row CJ Stander has left the jersey in a better place after playing his final Guinness Six Nations game for the Men in Green.
South-African born Stander announced last week his decision to retire from rugby at the end of this season before Ireland’s Super Saturday showdown with England in Dublin.
The No.8 then helped his adoptive country seal a stunning 32-18 victory over the defending Guinness Six Nations champions on his 51st appearance for Ireland.
And following an emotional interview from Stander at the conclusion of the contest, Virgin Media Ireland pundit and Ireland legend O’Gara paid tribute to his former Munster teammate.
“I was lucky enough to play with him and that was a powerful interview and some lovely words,” said O’Gara – Ireland’s second-most capped player and highest ever points scorer.
“Some guys know it’s the end and they put on a bit of an act but that’s not an act, I think he is very brave.
“He came into the Munster dressing room with an open mind and a want to work and work hard, earn the respect of his teammates and I think he has done that.
“I think he has left the jersey in a better place and I think he was incredibly consistent, but he was incredibly consistent as a person as well and he has good values.
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“He sets a good standard and you can see he’s hurting, it’s not easy for any guy having a double lockdown without a new baby and a wife and he’s struggling mentally.
“But he parked it, he did what’s best for the team and he rolled up his sleeves. We only play England at home twice every four years and it brings out the best in us.
“You can see the emotion on CJ, you can see the goosebumps on me now.
“That’s what it means playing for Ireland. Yes, he’s a project player but he has the exact same values – even better potentially – than anyone that is born and bred in the country.
“Well done CJ.”