Monday 19 March 2018

O'Gara wounded by Racing implosion

Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ronan O'Gara could not have been surprised by anything that was thrown in his direction by Munster on Saturday afternoon.

What really knocked him for six was the attitude of his own men, such that he couldn't dare contemplate any sense of admiration for the courage and commitment of his former team. Pain, not pride, was his prevailing emotion.

"No, I didn't," he responded, when asked if he had a sneaking empathy for his former charges.

"Because if that's what you work at you want to be good at it, and today wasn't a good day. We've changed the team and you kind of expect that but you'd kind of hope for a bit more.

"Maybe I was expecting a bit much. It was my wife who said to me 'you knew this morning you were going to get hammered!' and I said 'no, I didn't'.

"It's just another day learning. That's the reality of it. The first time playing Munster and the first time getting tonked.

"I don't know if I was taken aback. I knew they would be good and watching them up close they were really good, yeah. They were really good.

"They have great detail in their game and the biggest thing that struck me was athletes in their prime against fellas that are in their 30s.

"You look at CJ (Stander), Peter O'Mahony. Conor (Murray) was a class above everyone else on the pitch I thought, and they just schooled us in every department really."

If Saturday was ugly, the return in Thomond Park could be gruesome for a side who admit that January 28, and a league clash with Lyon, is their prime focus this month for the tamed French champions.

"It poses all kinds of questions because I know what it's like," said O'Gara.

"I don't think anyone in the Racing dressing-room realises what it could be like and there's the capacity to put three times the score on what happened today. That's the reality.

"They are well marshalled at half-back and they have great line speed, they have an unbelievable maul and they have unbelievable forwards. They are a good team."

How good remains to be seen but victory in Glasgow next week will see them presented with the chance to perhaps at least emulate Racing, last season's finalists.

"If Munster are coming out of the group, the likelihood is that they'll get a home quarter-final, so you're looking at 160 minutes away from doing something," added O'Gara.

"That's putting them into a pressurised situation but they don't need by me saying that.

One side of me says that 14 games ago they weren't a good team, now they're a very good team.

"But they have to go again because Saracens probably have more trust in the bank in them as a team in big pressurised occasions."

O'Gara would have had a beer with his old friend and mentor Anthony Foley before the game, would have expected to see that familiar smile, but it was not to be.

It never will be again.

But Foley's presence, even in its absence, will always remain.

"Of course but that will remain hopefully for as long as I live. I don't think any of us look upon him in the past tense," added O'Gara.

"Living here, I just expect to see him. It's similar probably with Paul Darbyshire (Munster's former fitness coach, also thieved too soon). I still haven't come to terms with him probably.

"You just expect to see these guys and I don't have answers as to how to deal with that."

Irish Independent

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