Jonathon Sexton backs Ronan O’Gara for future coaching role with Ireland or Munster
It will not have escaped students of irony that as Jonathan Sexton bemoans the cultural deficit in a Leinster side who flopped disastrously in Europe this season, his old employers have suddenly mined a special ethos en route to a maiden final.
Racing 92 were still a pretty shambolic, albeit emerging, outfit when he shocked Irish rugby to join them two seasons ago; the chaotic nature of his withdrawal last year at the quarter-final stage contributed to an implosion against Saracens.
This season, though, it has all come together quite nicely for the Paris-based side, with Dan Carter taking the reins far more successfully and Ronan O’Gara, Sexton’s erstwhile playing rival and subsequent coaching mentor, remaining a key figure in the enterprise.
Racing face Saracens, again, in this weekend’s Lyon showpiece and Sexton, whose Leinster side won only one European fixture during their calamitous campaign, will be watching from the relative discomfort of his sofa.
“It’s always strange watching your old team,” the three-time European champion admits. “I was really happy for the players, the ones I played with. Obviously it’s a very different team to the one I played with, in my first year especially.
“In the second year we had a better team but I missed four or five months of the season, and it didn’t work out in that season.
“I hope they go on and do great things and I can look back on my time there and say I did my best.
“Things didn’t work out towards the end with injuries. But if I could go back and do it all again, I don’t think I would change much.
“That was more tough on me because it was more of a French-based team at the start. I wish the boys well. I will support them. I don’t begrudge them or anything. I was really happy for the guys when they beat Toulon.
“They have got some quality players in Chris Masoe, Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko, three influential guys in the team.
“You need a lot of luck to get to the final and once you get there you’ve a great chance of winning it. It’s probably 50-50 now for them but it will be a tough game. Saracens are the best English side so it will be a tough final.”
Sexton also hailed O’Gara’s influence and believes that his one-time international colleague, a two-time European winner with Munster, is destined to return to the old sod.
“When I was there, he was limited in the first year,” says Sexton. “He got more involved in the second year when his French was better and he knew the coaches better. I presume he’s taken a bigger role this year.
“His role should be what he’s known for, his skills. As an out-half, his expertise was in attack. If they gave him the attack, he would have more of an influence. He has been given the defence and you can see that is the most organised part of their game.
“We became great friends. We spent a lot of time together over there. Working day to day was great, just chatting to him because it was really tough when I was first there.
“I think he has a real future in coaching. He is contracted there for another few years.
“Then, you could see him coming back to Munster or even Ireland. You never know. He has done it the right way. He went away and he is building into it.”