'It wasn't an easy decision' - Ronan O'Gara confirms return to France for first head coaching role
Ronan O'Gara will join La Rochelle as head coach next season after the French club confirmed his appointment today.
The former Ireland out-half who is currently working in New Zealand with the Crusaders, where he had the option of extending his stay for a third year, will return to France following his time with Racing 92.
O’Gara will work under Jono Gibbes, who has moved to a director of rugby role.
The move will see O’Gara become a head coach for the first time as he further enhances his rapidly growing reputation.
Munster had sounded out the Cork man’s interest in returning as the province’s backs/attack coach but that never materialised as their former talisman favoured a head coach role.
The Munster and Ireland legend previously spent four-and-a-half seasons in the Racing 92 set-up, starting out as kicking coaching before progressing to take over the defence. He subsequently broadened his experience with Scott Robertson's Crusaders team, overseeing the attack.
La Rochelle reached the semi-finals of the Top 14 and the final of the European Challenge Cup this season.
In a statement on the Crusaders website, O'Gara explained his reasons behind the move.
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"This is one of the best rugby clubs in the world, and it certainly wasn’t an easy decision to move on from this team and their high-performance environment," he said.
"I’m grateful to the Crusaders for the faith they’ve shown in me as a coach, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside a world-class playing and management group for the last two seasons. While I see this move to La Rochelle as the next step in my coaching career and an exciting opportunity for my young family, I’d like to think, long-term, this is not necessarily the end of my time with the Crusaders.
"My focus now is helping to deliver a successful 2019 campaign with the side before my family and I return to France at the end of the season."