Ronan O’Gara: I’m not spooked by becoming La Rochelle head coach – I’m excited by it

He could have joined up with France’s Rugby World Cup coaching ticket or returned to the loving arms of Jacky Lorenzetti and Racing 92.

He must have been tempted to remain for another season in Christchurch, where the Crusaders have embraced his ideals and broadened his rugby horizons.

However, Ronan O’Gara has always been an instinctive sort, trusting what feels right in his gut.

And La Rochelle felt right.

“The fact that I will have a lot more rugby responsibility is important too,” he told Examiner Sport Thursday.

“Being a head coach is exciting not because of the job title, but because of the job spec."

Job titles are one thing, but you can always be doing much more with the players than what it says on your job description anyway.

“People have said ‘Oh you have to be a head coach next time out’. Really? The key bit is the project itself.

I am not spooked by being a head coach now – I am excited by it. Jonno (Gibbes) is my boss but this is a first opportunity to oversee things on the coaching side of the group, what we do in the week and on matchday.

So what ultimately swung it for La Rochelle? O’Gara splits it into three important areas.

“The people, the support and the project in a nutshell. Jonno Gibbes seems like a really good fella to me. You have to have absolute trust. We haven’t met, we have spoken on the phone and I get that straight-up Kiwi sense about him.

"This is a tough gig even when everyone is united, so that’s the first priority for any management group. In any set-up if you have fellas pulling in different directions, you have no chance.

“La Rochelle seems like a really, tight small management group. That’s exciting in itself - I am full of optimism for it. Also, from travelling to the Marcel Deflandre Stadium, I’ve seen the support and observed the club president, Vincent Merling.

"There was always something special about playing in La Rochelle. I see a little bit of Munster in the support, they are hugely passionate. When you play a game of rugby at home, you want to do so in front of a full, boisterous crowd every other week.

“I think Vincent Merling really gets it. That has to be a major consideration for me and for my family – that you have a stable club and a stable club president who will hopefully give you time to find your feet. But also given you every opportunity to win silverware.

They were convincingly beaten by Toulouse in the (Top 14) semi-final but even in that context, there is excitement at the prospect and the chance to get your points and your philosophy across to the players on the training pitch.

O’Gara has some important business to finish up with in New Zealand first, and said he wants to be allowed concentrate on that before turning his thoughts to the 2019-20 season in France.

The Crusaders have secured home field advantage through the play offs and await the identity of their quarter-final opponent on Saturday week in Christchurch.

If Scott Robertson’s side go all the way to the final – they are seeking a Super Rugby three-in-a-row – O’Gara won’t officially finish in New Zealand until July 6 th . That leaves precious little time for a holiday before starting in La Rochelle. He is conscious too of the danger of burnout.

“I am aiming to start on July 15 in France, so we will have to play that by ear until we see how far we go here in the play-offs.

"I have got better at that (time management and burnout) over here in New Zealand but it’ll be a pretty short summer. That’s unavoidable.”

La Rochelle begin their Top 14 campaign on August 24.

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