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PARIS - Irish first-five Ronan O'Gara has hit back at the French sports daily L'Equipe for making what he called despicable allegations about his private life in the lead-up to the crunch World Cup match with France last week.

The 30-year-old Munster and British and Irish Lions star was hit with claims last Wednesday in L'Equipe that he owed 300,000 euros ($582,863) from gambling on horses and that his marital life was coming to an end - with his wife Jess, who he had dated for 10 years prior to their wedding - after a series of affairs.

However, O'Gara, who seemed well out of sorts in the 25-3 defeat by the French on Saturday and received a stern talking to from referee Chris White during the first-half, hit back strongly at the allegations.

"It was difficult for a day or two after these stories came out," admitted O'Gara, who scored Ireland's only points with a drop goal.

"The most important thing is that people who know me realise there is no truth in these stories whatsoever.

"I'll be seeking advice to find out what is the best way for my wife and I to deal with the stories.

"The gambling affront doesn't bother me because I'll say it straight up - I do back horses and do it frequently.

"I own racehorses and have placed bets since I was 18.

"It was said in L'Equipe that I owed 300,000 euros. That's a load of nonsense.

"A lot of the boys thought it was very funny but there's a serious side to it as well. It was upsetting for a day or two but then there was no problem," added the 76 cap veteran.

O'Gara, born in America and once sought after by the NFL outfit from his birthplace the San Diego Chargers to become their kicker which he turned down, said that it was nobody's business but his own how steady his marriage was.

"But the fact I have a troubled marriage is quite disappointing to hear. It's not for me to say I have a perfect marriage," said 'ROG' as he is known to his team-mates.

"Like everyone else little things happen but that's behind closed doors at home.

"I love my wife and she loves me, that's all I can say on the matter."

O'Gara, who enjoyed perhaps his best year in 2006 when he won the Triple Crown with Ireland and the European Cup with Munster on the third occasion they had been in the final as well as becoming Ireland's record points scorer, admitted there had been rumours about his private life going round for quite a while.

"There have been rumours about me going around for a year now. The only good thing is that it's all come out and has now been put to bed," O'Gara said.

"It has been despicable. Talk about disputes in your marriage and being told you've been kicked out of your own home is the lowest of the low.

"My wife is a primary school teacher and I didn't expect this kind of rubbish. I rang home and braced her for it.

"I thought 'Jesus, I can't believe it's in the papers'.

"I didn't ask for this and neither have I asked for support, but the number of people who have been onto me in the last week has been brilliant.

"They knew it wasn't a real issue. In fact most of the texts I've been getting have been good-natured banter."

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who slammed the reports on Friday saying they were disgraceful slurs, denied that the allegations had an effect on O'Gara in the France match.

"Ronan has coped very well with the pressure. People will look at his performance against France and probably point the finger at him," he said.

"They're (the O'Gara stories) all over now. What more can you say about them? I don't believe they have distracted him.

- AFP