The Irish Rugby Football Union has paid tribute to Ronan O'Gara as an "iconic figure'' as he announced his playing retirement in order to take up a coaching role with Racing Metro.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne singled out the drop-goal that won Ireland the Grand Slam as arguably the finest of all his contributions to the game.
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 his inaugural column for the Irish Examiner today.
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.
Browne said in a statement: “The news that Ronan O’Gara has decided to retire from playing draws to a close an incredible career in which he established himself as an iconic figure in Irish rugby over the past decade or so.
“His arrival on the international scene will be forever remembered for that wonderful image of Ronan and his long-time scrum-half partner, Peter Stringer, on their international debut, being shepherded by Mick Galwey as they emotionally lined up for the national anthem.
“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 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff being arguably his finest hour.
“Irish rugby will undoubtedly miss his extraordinary talents but it is pleasing to see him continue his career within the game.
“We thank him for his total commitment and professionalism and wish him, his wife Jessica and family every good fortune into the future.”
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 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.”