Ronan O'Gara faces stern test in first game as Top 14 head coach

Ronan O'Gara faces stern test in first game as Top 14 head coach

Ronan O'Gara faces a stern test of his head coaching credentials on the opening weekend of the Top 14 season.

His La Rochelle side will face an away trip to Clermont Auvergne's fearsome Stade Marcel-Michelin on Sunday, where they have lost on all 16 of their visits in the club's history.

They will also be seeking revenge for their 36-16 Challenge Cup final loss to Clermont, who were unbeaten in all but their final home game, a dead rubber, last year.

However, last year's runners-up will be weakened without ten players on World Cup warm-up duty, including half-backs Greig Laidlaw and Camille Lopez, and centre Wesley Fofana.

La Rochelle are among the less affected French clubs, with five players away with the France and Fiji squads, although centre Geoffrey Doumayrou would've added to that number but for an Achilles injury.

O'Gara and director of rugby Jono Gibbes can select from a squad which includes last season's top-scorer Ihaia West and veteran recruit Brock James, as the former Clermont player rejoins for his second spell with 'Les Maritimes'. James was one of only three signings for the wealthy Rochelais entering this season.

O'Gara's side have won both of their pre-season games, against Clermont (33-7) and Agen (35-5).

Whatever happens, Sunday's game marks the start of a marathon ten-month season which will only conclude after the Top 14 final on June 26, 2020.

ROG also learned his first Champions Cup opponents yesterday. His side will host Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, November 16, in a pool which also features Sale Sharks and Glasgow Warriors.

More on this topic

Gareth Thomas ‘would not have revealed HIV diagnosis without press intrusion’Gareth Thomas ‘would not have revealed HIV diagnosis without press intrusion’

Gatland bemused by recent Quinlan criticismGatland bemused by recent Quinlan criticism

Rugby legend Gareth Thomas reveals HIV positive status after 'blackmail threat'Rugby legend Gareth Thomas reveals HIV positive status after 'blackmail threat'

Ireland U20s will return to Cork to defend Six Nations titleIreland U20s will return to Cork to defend Six Nations title

More in this Section

Shouldering the nation’s hopes: three players Ireland cannot afford to loseShouldering the nation’s hopes: three players Ireland cannot afford to lose

McIlroy off to nightmare start at WentworthMcIlroy off to nightmare start at Wentworth

Spurs slip-up as City bounce back – 5 things we learned from Champions LeagueSpurs slip-up as City bounce back – 5 things we learned from Champions League

Shakhtar are no pushovers and can still cause us problems at Etihad – GuardiolaShakhtar are no pushovers and can still cause us problems at Etihad – Guardiola


Lifestyle

The American heritage brand has put together a collection inspired by the most stylish Friends character.This is why Rachel Green’s style is the epitome of Ralph Lauren – as a new collection is announced

When starting out as a comedian, Cork man Andrew Ryan decided to go to straight to London, sidestepping the usual starting ground of Irish clubs and pubs.Cork comedian Andrew Ryan is 'a cross between Ardal O’Hanlon and Ed Byrne'

Rachel Marie Walsh knows the best eyeliners to try this season.Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Essential eyeliners for a killer look

Paul McLauchlan has the lowdown from London Fashion Week. Here’s all you need to know about next season.London Fashion Week: How you’ll dress for the next decade

More From The Irish Examiner