Ronan O’Gara: La Rochelle determined to keep hold of head coach amid England interest

Colin Newboult

La Rochelle are desperate to retain the services of head coach Ronan O’Gara with the former Ireland representative linked to an international job following the Rugby World Cup.

The 45-year-old, who worked at Racing 92 and the Crusaders before moving to the Stade Marcel-Deflandre, is contracted to the Top 14 club until 2024.

Several roles are set to be vacated after the global tournament and O’Gara has reportedly been put on the England shortlist to replace Eddie Jones.

He guided La Rochelle to the Champions Cup title last season, while they reside in second place in the league table after 11 games of the current campaign.

Bad news

Asked whether he hopes O’Gara stays, wing Jules Favre said: “Yes, for sure, because he has given us a lot. He has made the club grow so for sure it would be bad news for us.

“He is a great coach. He started with Racing in France, with the defence, and he went to New Zealand after that to improve himself as a forwards coach. Now he is in his prime.”

Favre would bear no ill will towards O’Gara should he depart for pastures new, even if it would deprive La Rochelle of an influential figure.

“For him it is good news because he does his best to have an international team. It’s like me as a player: I really want to play for the French team and perform and he wants to train the best players,” he said.

There is an aspect O’Gara will have to temper if and when he becomes an international coach and that is his approach towards match officials.

The former Ireland fly-half is currently serving his fourth ban in a year following actions which were “harming the best interests of rugby”.

He is sitting out 10 La Rochelle matches, which includes their four Champions Cup group games, but Favre insists that it will not affect the team.

“No. During the week it is the same thing because he is allowed to be with us. The ban is just for the game. He gives us all the information to our staff for the game,” he said.

“He is there and he talks to us a little bit. On the game day the players have to take the lead and we have the players to do this.”

Special Champions Cup atmosphere

As the defending European champions, there will be a bit more attention on both La Rochelle and O’Gara when they begin their campaign against Northampton Saints on December 10.

French clubs are sometimes accused of failing to take the Champions Cup seriously but that is not the case at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre, especially with a former Munsterman in charge.

“When we have a Champions Cup week it is a different atmosphere at training, video every time. He talks about his experience, where he lived, and he says it will be f***ing enormous! That’s his words,” Favre added.

“There are a lot of good teams this year, like all years, but especially when we are the champions and we will have to defend it. We have a good group with Ulster and Northampton. It will be hard but we will do our best to do this.

“We realised that the Champions Cup title can unite all the people, the players and the staff. Everybody. It was a huge feeling and in the stadium in Marseille we had all the crowd in the Stade Rochelais jersey, like a yellow wall.

“When they gave us the trophy it was a really good moment.

“We want to show everybody that it was not luck last year. It will be good if we can do three finals in a row.”

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