Yet, as he stepped from the Racing Metro coach on Saturday, 500kms from his new base in Paris, this must have seemed surreal. Racing moved the match to the seaside because they felt all their fans would be on holidays.
Brive, 150km nearer than the ‘home’ team’s base, also travelled in decent numbers and O’Gara, with Jonathan Sexton about 20 paces in front of him, walked through the blue-and-white Racing and black-and-white clad Brive supporters from the road to the dressing room at the back of the stand. And then, about halfway along the 100m walk, a Munster supporter clad in one of the old style Bank of Ireland jerseys put it all into perspective.
“Good man Rog, enjoy your time,” he shouted down from the grassy embankment. The message was clear; O’Gara is here to hone his coaching skills and then is expected back home.
But whatever about the inevitable return of Sexton and O’Gara to home shores in a few years, they are certainly immersing themselves in their new lives in Paris, with both admitting they now speak to each other in French in a bid to improve their grasp of the language and also to reduce their ‘outsider’ status in a dressing room packed with talent from all over the globe.
Sexton admitted: “The big thing is to try and speak French with the guys. I’m speaking poor to average French and they are speaking poor to average English back, trying to be nice. I am trying to get them to keep speaking French so I get used to it. You want to hear it all the time until I get used to it. The coaches do everything in French which is good and I am picking it up slowly but surely.
“The physios are good, they speak French all the time and almost give French lessons when you are getting treated. I’m sure it will settle down soon in the next few weeks. Coming into training in the morning, with having Rog here has made things a little bit easier, someone to bounce things off.”
Despite all he has been thrown in a whirlwind year — the Six Nations, double silverware with Leinster, the victorious Lions tour, his marriage and move to Paris — Sexton said he was very nervous on Saturday.
“It’s just in a different environment and trying to do things in a different language is difficult. I was obviously very nervous before the game. But, yeah, in many ways I am delighted just to get the win and get off to some kind of start. We have plenty to work on now going forward.”
He kicked three from six on Saturday on a day when a breeze coming in off the Atlantic did few favours, but a 100% return would not have been unexpected.
“I struck the ball well and I struck it well off the ground in the first half. I took one from 50 and the wind got it and took the next one and it didn’t get it. Sometimes that can happen in difficult conditions, but I have plenty to work on now going forward and I was happy with everything else other than misjudging the wind a couple of times,”
Sexton still played a pivotal role. He set up the opening try for full-back Benjamin Lapeyre to lead by 10-5 at the interval, but Brive made a sloppy Racing side battle all the way before Sexton’s replacement Jonathan Wisniewski sealed the win with a couple of penalties.
Scorers for Racing Metro: Try: Lapeyre; Cons: Sexton; Pens: Sexton (2), Wisniewski (2).
Scorers for Brive: Try: Radikedike; Pens: Germain (2); DG: Ferreres.
RACING METRO: B Lapeyre; B Fall, H Chavancy, F Estebanez (A Dumoulin 74), V Vakatawa; J Sexton (J Wisniewski 58), M Machenaud (L Magnaval 78); S Tonga Uiha (J Brugnaut 54), D Szarzewski (V Lacombe 56), L Ducalcon (B Muijati 54); K Ghezal, F Van Der Merwe (F Metz 74); D Lydiate, A Battut (B Le Roux 23), J Cronje.
BRIVE: G Germain; G Namy, A Mignardi, A Mailei (L Ferreres 75), E Radikedike; R Sola, JB Pejoine (D Neveu 54); G Shvelidze (J Coetzee 52), G Rees (F Da Ros 52), P Barnard (T Leupolu 52); J Ledevedec, A Mela; P Hauman, H Briatte, S Koyamaibole (K Murphy 54).
Referee: S Attalah.