Ronan O'Gara: 'It feels a little bit surreal but we wake up tomorrow morning as European champions'

"I knew defensively the way we set up we wouldn’t really let them play."
Ronan O'Gara: 'It feels a little bit surreal but we wake up tomorrow morning as European champions'

La Rochelle's French full-back Brice Dulin and La Rochelle's Irish coach Ronan O'Gara celebrate after winning the European Rugby Champions Cup, rugby union final between Stade Rochelais (La Rochelle) and Leinster at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, southeastern France, on May 28, 2022. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)

He's a European champion again as a coach, but Ronan O'Gara was quick to credit forwards coach  Donnacha Ryan for the phases of play that led to Arthur Retiere’s 79th-minute that won the Champions Cup for La Rochelle and denied Leinster a fifth title.

Rog told BT Sport: "We have 'Shkin' Ryan harping away all week in Tipperary French about the quickest way to the tryline is straight and he hates when the backs get their hands on it. So it should be a good video review this week."

O'Gara was pleased with La Rochelle's start to the game before they lost their way during the first half. 

"I was pretty confident after 12 minutes and then we were inaccurate, ill-discipline, soft potential penalties that gave then an into the game."

But La Rochelle's defence held firm, denying Leinster a try in the final.

"I knew defensively the way we set up we wouldn’t really let them play. We did a lot of homework, the Connacht game in Galway and the Leicester game gave me enough ammunition to work with. 

"We could see that if you stand off them it’s going to be like the Aviva, they are very very strong in the Aviva but thankfully today was in Marseilles.

"Leinster always score tries and there was a message during the week that we’d have to score tries. 3-6-9 wasn’t going to be enough and it nearly was enough for Leinster.

"But there was great heart. At 18-10 we could have tolled over, said ok it’s Leinster they’re going for their fifth star. But I think this is the start of something special here I hope."

Asked to compare winning the European showpiece as a coach compared to as a player with Munster, O'Gara said:

"It’s very very different. The great thing when you’re a player, even if you’ve an average game you release emotions. When yuo’re a coach it’s pent up. 

"We’ve all nationalities, you're speaking pigeon English, they’re looking at you going 'why should we believe you, coach'. I'm going 'stay with me here, we can do this'.

"It feels a little bit surreal but we wake up tomorrow morning as European champions."

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