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Ronan O’Gara has become a fully-qualified coach in France

Ronan O’Gara has revealed that he is now a fully-qualified coach in France, meaning that he is now allowed to stand at the side of the pitch for matches.

The former Munster and Ireland player first started as an assistant coach of Racing 92 in 2013, joining the Parisian club as soon as his playing career had finished.

He is currently the head coach of La Rochelle after joining them in 2019, but revealed that he has only been a fully-qualified coach in the eyes of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) since last week.

“There is every possibility I am the thickest rugby coach in France, but at least I am a qualified one.

“After six, frequently-interrupted years of pursuing my full and final coaching badges through the FFR, the envelope dropped through the letterbox last week.

“I spent enough afternoons dashing from training to study at France Rugby’s centre of excellence in Marcoussis to do me a lifetime, was lectured by a jet fighter pilot on situation management, and struggled to find the momentum to keep the endgame in sight.


“But I had my final exam on December 2 and received my results last week,” O’Gara wrote in the Irish Examiner.

‘Pitchside is where it’s at’

While lacking the official coaching badges in France didn’t stop O’Gara from getting the top job at La Rochelle, it did stop him from staying at pitch side for their games, as many French coaches do.

While the Munster legend admitted that he often favours watching matches from the coach’s box in the stands most of the time, he is eager to be at ground level with his players.


“I’m now an entraîneur official, which doesn’t make a better coach but allows me, in the Top 14 at least, to don a red band and prowl the sidelines.

“The notion of studious, bespectacled gurus analysing statistics and data in the coach’s box is a seducing one, but in the trench warfare of the Top 14, down pitchside is where it’s at.

“This is the battleground where coaches mark out their territory, scowl and glower at the referee, intimidating him if at all possible, curry favour with him if not.

“Think GAA mentality here and you have it. I love the way the likes of Liam Sheedy and John Kiely patrol the touchline, advertise their passion, show they are there for their players.

“When that’s controlled passion it’s a powerful coaching tool. Spitting on the hands and encouraging the boys.

“Lobbing a few grenades along the touchline. The best of pitch battles in sport are often the ones waged outside the white lines,” O’Gara explained.

Life has been going pretty well for the former Ireland fly-half in France so far, with La Rochelle sitting in second place in the Top 14 table, having won 10 of their 13 games so far.

La Rochelle are also currently poised to reach the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, having beaten Edinburgh and being awarded a win against Bath after the English club was unable to play the fixture.

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