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Ronan O’Gara explains La Rochelle’s ‘KBA’ mindset in fascinating interview


Ronan O’Gara has given a fascinating insight into how he coaches La Rochelle, explaining that their mindset is to always “keep the ball alive”.

La Rochelle head coach O’Gara was speaking to BT Sport after his side’s victory against Gloucester in their last 16 clash in the Heineken Champions Cup, and gave an in-depth interview on how the team aims to play.

The French club play an exhilarating style of rugby in which they look to offload the ball as much as possible, which resulted in a couple of excellent tries at Kingsholm on Friday night.

O’Gara explained that their style of play has been largely influenced by the time he spent with the Crusaders in New Zealand, leading La Rochelle to move away from the “massive ruck focus” that is prevalent in European rugby.

“I think it’s a mindset, it’s something that interests me hugely. I think there’s a massive ruck focus in the northern hemisphere and then when you go to the Crusaders it’s KBA – keep ball alive,” O’Gara explained.

“That’s something I’m interested in myself. We’re trying to get speed on the ball and keeping it alive. There’s a risk with that but you have to weigh up the risk and the reward and we were good at times and inaccurate at times, but that’s the beauty of the game.”

La Rochelle

O’Gara on La Rochelle’s decision making.

While the former Ireland international acknowledged that it is impossible to perfectly implement a gameplan of such nature at all times, more often than not La Rochelle do benefit from their fast-paced style of play.

“It’s interesting teaching or coaching. You’ve got to keep persisting with your message but you can’t have too many messages. So, us with the ball there’s a big focus on identifying space,” O’Gara said.

“We look at obviously going through them or going outside them or ball in the air if they have 14 on the front line.

“There are always decisions to be made and that’s something that you’ll never get right, but if we get most of them right, you have a good chance.”

‘You’ve got to understand the person first’

O’Gara puts just as much focus on man-managing his players as he does on constructing the team’s strategy, and used Fijian international Levani Botia as an example of how different players respond to different methods.

“He’s a dream. I was lucky to get to spend a bit of time in Fiji when I went to New Zealand. I think you’ve got to understand the person first,” O’Gara said.

La Rochelle

“They [Fijians] are very affectionate and they like a lot of love and their back being rubbed. You’ve got to get the best out of them.

“You understand why they come back two weeks late from their summer holidays. But I guarantee you boys, if we went there [Fiji] we’d be the same. It’s no worry, no hurry, Fiji time. Once you understand that – you get them.”

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