McCaw spent 14 years with the Christchurch outfit, and is therefore ideally placed to run the rule over O’Gara’s new employers. During his time with Racing 92 in the Top 14, the former Munster out-half worked alongside ex-New Zealand internationals Dan Carter and Casey Laulala, and McCaw believes he can bring a fresh approach to the Crusaders set-up.
“I think it’s exciting from a Crusader point of view. It’s the first sort of northern hemisphere influence, I guess, on the Crusaders. I’m thinking that the time Ronan had at Racing around guys like Dan Carter and Casey Laulala, [he’d have asked] whether it was the right place to go,” McCaw remarked.
“The Crusaders boys would have asked the same question, but there’s no doubt that he’s got a pretty good rugby brain, and will bring new ideas and stuff that the Crusaders will be pretty keen to hear.”
Speaking to Irish Examiner Sport last night, AIG ambassador McCaw acknowledged that O’Gara may take some time to settle into this new environment, but believes the foundations set by Wayne Smith and Todd Blackadder during their time with the franchise will make it an easier transition for the 40-year-old.
“I think the Crusaders traditionally are the most successful franchise in Super Rugby. I think that the culture, and what the team stands for, has been pretty well set-up. Right from day one, led by Wayne Smith and Todd Blackadder, and then obviously Todd on his own.
“It’s got a great culture, they’ve just come off winning the last Super Rugby. It’s a pretty successful franchise, who I think do things pretty damn well. It’s always the team comes first, before an individual type team. He’ll be coming into a team like that, and the guys there are always driven to be better and succeed. They’ll want to pick Ronan’s brain for experiences and ideas.”
While the likes of Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland have made successful journeys from the southern hemisphere across to the northern hemisphere, there are precious few examples of coaches or players moving in the opposite direction.
However, having seen a number of Scottish players passing through the international high performance unit operated by the Crusaders down through the years, he feels that more clubs will be open to recruiting from outside of New Zealand.
“I can’t see why it wouldn’t work in reverse. I just look at the Scottish team there’s been over the years. There’s an international high performance set-up within the Crusaders, that gets players to come in and get experience.
“They’ve got back and ended up, certainly a few of them, playing for the Scottish national team. I think probably other teams as well will be open to getting the best out of the market, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a New Zealander,” McCaw added.