Ronan O'Gara is a bonafide legend at Munster, but his status at the club will only grow if he can manage to stop Leinster from winning a fifth Champions Cup next week.
The Cork man will take charge of La Rochelle in the decider against Leinster in Marseille on May 28th. While the Irish province will enter the game as favourites considering their recent blistering form, the result is certainly no guarantee.
You may have suspected that O'Gara is already plotting Leinster's demise ahead of that showpiece fixture, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
La Rochelle will face Stade Francais in a Top 14 fixture this weekend, a game that will have a decisive say in their season. Despite their exploits in Europe, they have actually struggled in domestic competition and currently find themselves in seventh position in the league. They will likely need to win each of their last two fixtures in order to finish in the top six and advance to the play-off rounds.
Writing in his column for the Irish Examiner, O'Gara said that their game this weekend is every bit as vital as the upcoming showdown with Leinster.
La Rochelle have two massive cup finals ahead of us in the next eight days and getting the decisions right in terms of player load and management may ultimately determine our season.
While it is easy to look over the garden gate at the glitz of the Champions Cup final in Marseille on Saturday week, this weekend’s Top 14 game at home to Stade Francais is every bit as important in terms of prestige and finality...
On the off-chance that the Leinster branch read the Examiner, it’s probably unwise to get into too many details but it’s safe to assume we will need tries this Saturday and also to beat Leinster, so the strategy might be mixed - but it will have to be brave. It’s not like we park our advantages either.
Just because an opponent knows what’s coming doesn’t necessarily mean they can stop it. To not use an edge would be stupid...
Come this Friday night, when the planning for Stade is complete, I might grab a sneaky look at Leinster’s game at Welford Road and their comprehensive victory over Toulouse, but from what our dressing room said, the reigning champions were going to the well once too often in Dublin against a serious opponent.
Compared to the riot of colour and atmosphere at the Aviva, our semi-final (against Racing) was soporific, the inevitable result of bringing the game to Lens. I don’t think it was a good look for the penultimate game of the biggest club competition in the northern hemisphere, but it’s done and lessons may be learned.
There will be no such issue with the final at the Velodrome in Marseille. European ambition has always been big in Stade Rochelais but some of the younger players will get quite the goosebumps next weekend, as the final last year at Twickenham was limited to a 5,000 attendance.
You can read the column in full here.
It is certainly an intense week for La Rochelle, with O'Gara hinting that there will be quite a bit of change in terms of playing personnel as a result.
Leinster will certainly be hoping that the game this weekend takes a lot out of them ahead of the decider in Marseille next week.