Ronan O’Gara is determined to see La Rochelle defeat Toulouse in tonight’s Top 14 final at the Stade de France.
La Rochelle came up just short against Toulouse in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup final, but O’Gara’s side did put in admirable performance after centre Levani Botia was sent off for a high tackle in the 27th minute.
O’Gara expressed his eagerness to see La Rochelle overcome Toulouse in their second final encounter in as many months in his column for the Irish Examiner, admitting he’ll be “absolutely sick” if his side come up short again.
𝗖’𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗹𝗲 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗷𝗼𝘂𝗿 ! 🏆
La finale du TOP 14 se joue ce soir à 20h45 au Stade de France entre le @StadeToulousain et le @staderochelais ! Laquelle des deux équipes soulèvera le mythique Brennus ? 🥇
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) June 25, 2021
“We lose Friday night and I’ll be absolutely sick, like physically unwell, for four days before managing to wash it out of the system. Either way, though, we are on the map now,” O’Gara wrote.
“We are respected, irrespective of how the final goes. We are gone from upstarts to the new kids on the block. We are nowhere near the aristocrats of French rugby but that’s what we aim to be in time.
“There’s no point being a flash in the pan. But let’s not kid ourselves or shy away from tonight – it’s an unbelievably good story and season climax if we get over the line and win silverware at the Stade de France.”
A first-ever top-flight trophy beckons for Ronan O’Gara’s side.
La Rochelle have a modest history compared to the likes of five-time European champions Toulouse, having never won the Top 14 or the Champions Cup.
The western French side have only been in the Top 14 for the last seven seasons, but have grown steadily stronger in that time, and now sit at the top table of European rugby.
Their appearance in this year’s Champions Cup final was the first top-flight final La Rochelle had ever been in, and they will have the chance to go one step further in Paris against Toulouse.
While O’Gara’s focus is fully on the task at hand, the former Ireland international believes a win tonight could result in more silverware down the line for his team.
‘The first one is always the hardest.’
“The first one is always the hardest: I’m convinced of that. The players don’t know what winning looks like, they don’t know the taste, they don’t know what that winning dressing room is like pre or post-game,” O’Gara explained.
“Through the golden door there are others, because once one final falls for you, a few can follow after. You can go on a run.
“That’s the exciting bit, if you get one over the line, you could be away, but you can’t do that without respecting the opposition and Toulouse know how to win trophies – that’s probably their biggest strength.”