IN a shock development, Ronan O'Gara is following his former out-half rival Jonny Sexton to France after signing a two-year contract to become Racing Metro's assistant coach.
Ireland's record caps holder (128) met with Racing's owner Jacky Lorenzetti at a London hotel yesterday and signed contracts – believed to be worth €300,000 – with the club which has prised Sexton from Leinster.
The Munster legend's coaching duties have to be finalised, but it is expected his primary obligations will be with the youth set-up. He will also work with the first team as an assistant backs coach.
In this new role, O'Gara will now work closely with Sexton – who is one of a number of big-name signings made by the Paris club in recent months. Lions players Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate have also signed for them.
O'Gara is understood to have sent a group text message to his Munster team-mates yesterday evening informing them of his decision.
The 36-year-old, who will be part of Sky Sports' Heineken Cup final coverage today, will move to Paris with wife Jessica and their four children – twins Rua and Molly (age four) and sons JJ (three) and Zac (nine months) over the coming weeks.
A number of French clubs have been interested in signing O'Gara (right) as a coach.
Stade Francais showed an interest a couple of weeks ago while Clermont Auvergne are understood to have offered him a short-term playing deal allied with a role coaching their youth team.
The Racing Metro approach was made to him this week and after initial exploratory talks the finer points of the deal were thrashed out yesterday afternoon.
A lot, of course, will be made about how well he and Sexton will work together in their respective roles but it is inconceivable Sexton, who starred for Leinster in their Amlin Challenge Cup final last night, wasn't asked for his opinion on the prospect of working with O'Gara.
The pair's relationship has evolved over the years from being strained initially to one far more friendly.
O'Gara and his wife, for example, will be guests at Sexton's wedding this July.
The news that he has joined Racing Metro will come as a disappointment to Munster as they had hoped to change his mind about retiring from playing and offered him a new one-year contract last week.
From his perspective this year's Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont was always going to be his last appearance in his beloved Munster colours.