Ronan O'Gara is quickly becoming one of the most highly rated emerging coaches in rugby at the moment.
The route he has taken up to this point in his career has been somewhat unorthodox. He started off as a kicking and defence coach at Racing 92, before taking up an assistant role with Crusaders in New Zealand. Since taking the top job at La Rochelle in 2019, his reputation in the coaching sphere has grown exponentially.
He has led the French club to Champions Cup finals in each of the last two seasons, winning the tournament last year. As we now enter the business end of the 2022/23 campaign, he has the team competing on both domestic and continental fronts once again.
As well as facing Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup semi-final this weekend, the club will also be hoping to capture their first ever Top 14 title in the weeks ahead.
La Rochelle's Will Skelton sums up Ronan O'Gara as a coach
Will Skelton has been one of the standout performers during Ronan O'Gara's tenure at La Rochelle, with the Aussie lock joining the club from Saracens in 2020.
Speaking ahead of the game against Exeter Chiefs, he summed up what makes the Cork man such an impactful coach (h/t Irish Examiner).
This year, because every season you have a new group, he’s tried to put that win in Marseille away and not reflect on it too much.
If we keep looking back on last year we won’t see what we can do this season and next season.
It was a totally different group he had, different personalities, and I think the way he adapted was great. He knows when to put it on us, to switch and give us a hug. That’s what we’ve needed. In terms of coaching, he’s been great.
His detail is spot on, he’s got some great support coaches as well. He’s emotional but tries to take the emotion away from us, so we can just be free on the field and not bubble over. He tries to take that away in the week and so we can express ourselves on the weekend...
He says it all the time, that he has a lot more experience in this comp than us. He’s won comps, lost comps. He knows, especially when we play guys in the URC now, that when they play in Europe it is their World Cup.
You don’t put everything into the URC as Europe is the pinnacle for the Irish and Welsh teams. We try to put that emphasis during the week so that we’re ready and up for it, which is a bit different for the French where the Top 14 is the big cup you want to win.
He’s definitely changed that in the club.
Quite the endorsement.
Should Ronan O'Gara manage to add a second Champions Cup and a Top 14 title to his CV in the weeks ahead, he will certainly cement his status as one of the elite coaches in the game.