Life doesn’t stop for Munster and Ireland legend Ronan O’Gara.
The Cork man finished up his role as assistant coach with the Crusaders on July 6th as he watched his former side lift a third consecutive Super Rugby title thanks to their 19-3 victory over the Jaguares in Christchurch.
Nine days later, he was on the other side of the world on the west coast of France as he began his head coach duties with Top 14 side La Rochelle.
This will be O’Gara’s first head coaching role since he took up the whistle in 2013 upon his retirement from professional rugby. His coaching career has taken him to France, New Zealand and back again and he admits that he’s already impressed with the side who reached the semi-finals of the Top 14 last season.
“It’s exciting, they have a good attitude,” O’Gara said at Energia’s new rugby campaign launch.
“It’s different obviously the fact that it’s, you know, it’s an 11 month season. It’s important we put a good solid foundation in place and then just try and get better every month. So far it’s good, it’s good to have a good training centre. It’s good to meet Jono Gibbes [Director of Rugby]. He’s positive.”
The coaching ticket at La Rochelle will be smaller than what you would find in most French clubs but the 42-year-old sees the benefit in that.
“It’s a very small coaching group. It’ll be a pretty clear message about how we want to play and what we put importance on.
“In that regard you know, it’s good because it’s not a big management team. You could probably lack a little bit of detail in certain areas but what we lack in the detail, we’ll have our message because essentially (it will be) myself and Jono giving coaching messages.”
The culmination of O’Gara’s second impressive season with the Crusaders coincided with coaching upheaval at his beloved Munster as Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones both declined contract extensions to remain with the province.
This inevitably started conversations that O’Gara could return to the club he holds so dearly but he admitted that the timing just wasn’t right for both parties.
“It can so easily happen but at the minute, I don’t think it was the right move for either party. In that regard, it didn’t cost me much though. This challenge [La Rochelle] jumped out at me so once you get that inner feeling, I always trust my instincts in that regard and just said it seems right. I had a good opportunity to do something I love. I’m very young as a coach so I just think that the most important thing is you keep getting better.”
O’Gara is enjoying his time coaching abroad as he believes it’s the best way for him to improve and to hone his craft. Ultimately, it’s giving him the perfect platform as to when the day does arrive he feels ready to come back to Ireland, he will be able to hit the ground running.
“I was a player there (Munster) for so long and had the best of times with the supporters but that’s over now. You’re in a different career, you’re coaching. At the minute, I don’t want to go back because I feel it’s making me better by not going back there.
“I could easily go back in the morning and do a good job, I think, but I’m of the mind of more looking at it in a different way. Got out of the club, you see things differently and I’m away now seven years. There will be a time when I say I’ve to put my family first but that day hasn’t arrived yet. Once I have them on the road, keep them on the road because if they go back, they’re going to be back.”
O’Gara will be getting back to work tomorrow and he will certainly be a busy man as the beginning of the Top 14 season is just less than four weeks away.
Energia today revealed its new rugby communications campaign The Power Behind Positive Energy with the help of Energia ambassadors and Irish Rugby legends Ronan O’Gara and Shane Horgan. The leading energy supplier recently announced its sponsorship as Official Energy Partner of Irish Rugby as well as title sponsorship of the Energia All-Ireland Leagues and fans can look forward to seeing the new campaign in August.