O’GARA BOUYED AS LA ROCHELLE FIND FORM
Head coach calls on players to find another level in the European Champions Cup.
O’Gara couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after his side returned to form in the Top 14 on Saturday with a 26-11 win away to Bordeaux at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
It was La Rochelle’s first win in wine country since 2015 and puts consecutive defeats to Castres and Toulouse behind them and allows the Jaune et Noir to stay in second place with 63 points, four ahead of Racing 92.
Despite the win though O’Gara’s focus quickly turned to their next assignment, away to English side Gloucester in the European Champions Cup on Friday, with a home quarterfinal on offer for the victor.
If we win in Gloucester, we're back at the (Stade) Deflandre,” O’Gara told Midi Olympique. “It will be different without the fans, but the club has never played a quarterback at home. We know it's difficult, but anything worth doing is difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I will do my best to prepare my team to perform to their maximum.
Former Ireland and Munster fly-half O’Gara has been with La Rochelle since 2019 following two seasons burgeoning his reputation by assisting Scott Robinson when the Crusaders won back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
He was already well-known in French circles thanks to his spell as Racing 92’s defence and kicking coach from 2013 to 2017, a spell which featured Racing’s triumph in the 2016 Top 14 final.
His move to France’s Atlantic coach came shortly after La Rochelle lost their first major final, the European Challenge Cup to ASM Clermont Auvergne, and two years after they reached the playoffs for the first time when they lost to Toulon in the 2016-17 semifinals.
By then the club had launched their five-year plan that featured the development of a 15,000-capacity stadium, growth of the annual budget to €15million, and a squad in which 30% of the players came through their academy.
O’Gara has continued that development and has done so with a team that is playing some thrilling rugby. They cut loose against Bordeaux when wing Jules Favre, centre Levani Botia and fullback Dillyn Leyds ran in tries.
In Gloucester, O’Gara will be able to welcome number 8 Gregory Alldritt, prop Uini Atonio, and fullback Brice Dulin back from French international duty.
They will link up with the likes of fellow France internationals Jules Plisson and Kevin Gourdon, former New Zealand players Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, and Australian man-mountain Will Skelton.
O’Gara won European Cups with Munster in 2006 and 2008 and sees no point in limiting his side’s ambitions.