Ronan O’Gara has admitted that the build-up to La Rochelle’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Toulouse has been “weird” on account of the muted atmosphere.
La Rochelle will play in their first-ever Champions Cup final on Saturday, after beating four-time champions Leinster in the semi-final two weeks ago.
The former Ireland fly-half wrote about the atmosphere within the La Rochelle camp ahead of the European final in his column for the Irish Examiner and acknowledged how different things are compared to Munster.
Who are you backing to lift the #HeinekenChampionsCup title? 🏆
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 15, 2021
“For me, the winner takes it all at Twickenham on Saturday week, but even after that, there are two more Top 14 games to play before the play-offs,” O’Gara wrote.
“Whether it’s the lockdown or the club keeping a lid on the pre-final hype, or a combination of both, but it’s been very much business as usual around the club this week.
“It’s weird. No mention of suits, which were a guaranteed treat when Munster got to Heineken Cup finals.”
‘Everyone was keenly aware that there was another step to go.’
La Rochelle’s win against Leinster was perhaps the most significant victory in the club’s history, as they booked their place in the biggest match in European club rugby.
Things won’t be getting any easier for La Rochelle in the final though, as they take on European giants Toulouse, who will be seeking to becoming the first club to win five Champions Cup titles.
O’Gara has been determined to stop his players getting carried away after their win against Leinster, which had greatly excited the local La Rochelle fans.
“The natives were seriously pumped. This was like something you’d get outside Anfield on a big European Cup night. Afterwards, there was a palpable sense of pride, as there always has been, in how the players had represented them,” O’Gara commented.
“It’s very easy to get swept away on that. I got out of dodge. No media. No gladhanding. No talking ourselves up.
“Leinster are a top European side, but everyone was keenly aware that there is another step to go in Europe this season.
“Lads here are beginning to appreciate that there are good players all around them and they want to do more than get to a final. So we walk easy for a bit.”