Ireland and Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara has announced his playing retirement in order to take up a coaching role with Racing Metro.
O'Gara won 128 caps for Ireland, toured with the British and Irish Lions on three occasions and won two Heineken Cup titles with Munster in a glittering 16-year career.
The 36-year-old turned down the offer of a contract extension with Munster to join Racing where he will work as a specialist kicking coach to, among others, Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton.
"I have ambitions in the years ahead to coach at a high level and, with this in mind, I can confirm now that I will be joining Racing Metro's coaching staff in July," O'Gara wrote in a column for the Irish Examiner.
The French club today confirmed a galaxy of new playing recruits with Sexton, who replaced O'Gara in the Ireland team, Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate, Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga'uiha among 14 new signings.
O'Gara won the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam with Ireland in 2009 and he is Munster's most decorated player.
A statement released by the Irish province confirming the move said O'Gara's contribution for Munster would never be bettered.
The statement said: "Munster's most decorated player, O'Gara's been capped 240 times in a career that began in August 1997 and saw him steer Munster to Irish Interprovincial, Celtic League, Celtic Cup, Magners League and two Heineken cup titles in which time he scored a record 2,625 points, including 1,365 Heineken Cup points to become the all-time leading points scorer in that competition, a feat unlikely to be surpassed."
Paying tribute to the Ireland and Munster outhalf, Philip Browne, chief executive of O’Gara’s paymasters throughout his glittering career, the IRFU, said: “Irish rugby will undoubtedly miss his extraordinary talents, but it is pleasing to see him continue his career within the game.”
O’Gara will team-up with his rival for the Ireland No 10 jersey over the last few seasons – Jonny Sexton – at French club Racing Metro later in the summer. He has signed a two-year contract to become assistant coach at the Paris-based club.
The Corkman was capped 128 times for his country.
“His arrival on the international scene will be forever remembered for that wonderful image of Ronan and his long-time scrumhalf partner Peter Stringer, on their debut, being shepherded by Mick Galwey as they emotionally lined up for the national anthem,” added Browne. “Ronan’s career since then has been stellar and marked by his extraordinary ability to deliver, time and again, for Ireland and Munster. His drop goal to seal Ireland’s Grand Slam victory in the Millennium Stadium being arguably his finest hour.”
Browne also wished O’Gara well in his new role.