Ronan O'Gara declares his ambition to coach Ireland
Ronan O'Gara has revealed his ambition to one day coach Ireland.
The legendary out-half was this week inducted into World Rugby's hall of fame and is building a stellar coaching CV, having won the French Top 14 and Super Rugby as an assistant at Racing 92 and Crusaders.
Ireland's record points-scorer spent time working as part of Joe Schmidt's set-up on last June's summer tour and he is a huge fan of the Grand Slam-winning New Zealander.
He also admits he would one day like to follow in Schmidt's footsteps or at least be part of an Irish coaching ticket in the future.
"Of course I'd like to coach Ireland," he said.
"Five years into my playing career I wasn't the best player I could be and it's harder in coaching because there is more to learn.
"It's hard to get the jobs and opportunities I've been given. You have to make the most of them. Someone can open a door for you, but you have to take the gap when it's there.
"I'm not too bothered about my title, I just want to be in a group where I'm valued and I get the best out of the people around me.
"The great thing about rugby is the best people get the best jobs now.
"That's a lesson Ireland have probably learnt from in the past; that it's not always best for an Irishman to coach Ireland.
"If you look at the man who's coaching there at the moment, he's the best man for the job. If you're the best you should get it and if you're not, you shouldn't."
O'Gara believes Ireland can win next year's World Cup in Japan.
Having spent a season at close-quarters with the best team in New Zealand, O'Gara reckons Schmidt's side can go toe-to-toe with the world champions in Japan next year and come out on top.
"Ireland are hugely consistent and they have a great coach, while they have a lot of competition for places. Of course they can go and win the World Cup," he said.
"We wanted to win it when I was playing, but we weren't good enough or consistent enough. That's the challenge for this current group who have been really impressive.
"I think they'll most definitely make it to a semi-final and the gap to New Zealand is bridgeable.
"If New Zealand play you 10 times they'd probably beat you more often than you beat them, but that's not to say they can't be beaten on any given day.
"Ireland have a coach who believes they can win the World Cup and maybe should win it, which is a big comment. With the belief they have from him, anything is possible."
Meanwhile, former Munster coach Rassie Erasmus has received the backing of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) ahead of his side's daunting visit to New Zealand tomorrow.
The union president Mark Alexander dismissed recent defeats to Argentina and Australia as "hiccups" and said "the making of Rassie Erasmus as the Springbok coach won't be in a victory or defeat" this weekend.
Although he combines his Springbok coaching role with his position as South Africa's performance director, Erasmus feels his job is at risk after a pair of poor performances.
"I don't know if it's a good thing when they start saying those things, or is it a bad thing," he said of Alexander's statement.
"The big thing we are trying to fix here is we are trying to fix South African rugby long term," he said.
"The only thing everyone's been talking about the last few days is, 'Are you going to get fired?'
"For me, the point around that is more if the process stays on track and South African rugby gets fixed, that's the most important thing.
"If, as a cost I have to go or some of the players have to go, then it is what it is."
Erasmus has brought out-half Handre Pollard and hooker Malcolm Marx back into his side for the Wellington clash.
Elsewhere, Ulster are upbeat on Jordi Murphy's ankle injury and hope to have him back soon after he missed their two-game trip to South Africa, which kicks off in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.