Ronan O’Gara: La Rochelle role will make me a better coach

Ronan O’Gara believes his new role at La Rochelle will give him a better understanding as to the type of coach he wants to be.

The Munster and Ireland legend has already established an enviable reputation through his stints as an assistant at Racing 92 and Crusaders but he is assuming the role of head coach for the first time at La Rochelle where he will work under director of rugby Jono Gibbes.

O’Gara had more than one suitor when it came to moving on from his role in Christchurch with the Crusaders. A return to Paris was believed to be up there among them but the less familiar surrounds of the Bay of Biscay offered a chance to expand his portfolio at a crucial time in his development.

“I had a lot of options, yeah, but I don’t know what side of the ball I prefer, attack or defence. So I’m going to coach both, or try to coach both, at La Rochelle. That will speed up (the process of) making it clear in my mind which I prefer coaching, with a global vision in mind too.

“It’s a really tight, small coaching ticket at the minute with Jono as director of rugby, me, a forwards’ coach and a throwing coach… At club level you can do it, but obviously not to the detail you’d like to do it at. But at least there’s no mixed messages. It’ll be trying to get walking stuff and then add on, add on, add on.”

La Rochelle as a club was slow to embrace the expertise of non-locals down the years so the infusion of Gibbes, a New Zealander who worked with Leinster and Ulster in the past, and O’Gara is interesting in that context. O’Gara knows he can’t compare it to Christchurch or the Crusaders but first impressions have been fleeting.

He was only in town a week on the back of the Crusaders’ Super Rugby title win when the team decamped to the Pyrenees for a pre-season training camp and home for now is in temporary digs on the nearby Île de Ré until the summer season ends and the departing tourists open the valve on the housing stock.

“I’m not complaining, it is what it is.”

Exciting times. The potential with La Rochelle is obvious. Top 14 semi-finalists last year, they have made inroads in Europe as well this past few years and they were operating off a budget last season of €25.6million, which was the seventh highest in the Top 14.

“The Top 14 is a championship of it’s own,” said O’Gara.

“Some of them are young, some of them are not so young and, depending on what habits they have, you have to make their habits better to make them better rugby players. That’s what I’m looking forward to working with.”

Ronan O’Gara was speaking at the launch of Energia’s new rugby communication campaign ‘The Power Behind Positive Energy’. Over the coming season, Energia’s campaign will unveil how fans’ #PositiveEnergy can have a positive impact on rugby teams across the board.

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