O’Gara’s Racing Metro move a surprise to Sexton
Ireland and Munster outhalf (36) confirms he will coach former rival at the Parisian club from July
Ronan O’Gara (right) and Jonny Sexton (left), former provincial rivals grappling for the international number 10 jersey, will join up as coach and player at Racing Metro 92. Photograph: Inpho
Ireland outhalf Jonathan Sexton was not aware until yesterday that his predecessor Ronan O’Gara will be joining him at Racing Metro 92 next season, but he says he is “looking forward to working” with the Parisian club’s new assistant coach.
The 36-year-old Munster man today confirmed his retirement and reports he is to take up a two-year coaching contract with Racing, having agreed the deal with club owner Jacky Lorenzetti in London yesterday.
Outgoing Leinster playmaker Sexton is one of 14 new signings made by Racing ahead of next season, but he was surprised to learn he will also be joined by the man with whom he dueled for so long on both the interprovincial and international stages.
“I thought he’d go for another season with Munster,” he told RTE Radio. “I thought they’d want to hold on to him. But if he does come over with me it will be great.”
The St Mary’s man admitted their relationship was not always a harmonious one but that they had become friends after a fractious rivalry early in his career.
“[O’Gara will be] someone to help me settle in and someone I can fall back on who has a lot of experience,” said Sexton. “I don’t know what his role exactly is, we’ll have to sit down and have a talk. We’ve developed a really good friendship over the last few years. Obviously we didn’t get off on the best note, but we’ve had a really strong relationship and I really look forward to working with him.”
O’Gara wrote in the Irish Examiner this morning that his ambition is to coach “at a high level” and “with this in mind, I can confirm now that I will be joining Racing Metro’s coaching staff in July.” He turned down the option of a one-year contract extension with Munster.
A Munster statement paid tribute to a player whose contribution to the province is “unlikely to be surpassed”.
“The news today that Ronan O’Gara’s long and distinguished playing time is over, brings to a close what was by any standards, a remarkable career,” the statement read.
It added: “Munster’s most decorated player, O’Gara’s been capped 240 times in a career that began in August 1997 and saw him steer Munster to Irish interprovincial, Celtic League, Celtic Cup, Magners League and two Heineken cup titles in which time he scored a record 2,625 points, including 1,365 Heineken Cup points to become the all-time leading points scorer in that competition, a feat unlikely to be surpassed.”
Ireland and Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan added: “To gauge the impact this (retirement) will have you have to understand the phenomenal type of character he is. Every day he turns up for training, he brings a standard, sets that standard and never drops it an inch. And expects no less from anyone else no matter whether that’s with Munster, Ireland, the Lions, makes no difference to him.
“There are so many players, and I include myself top of that list, who are so much better players for being around him.”
Munster Rugby Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald said: “In wishing Ronan the very best in the future, I’d like to acknowledge the immense contribution he has made to Munster Rugby and indeed rugby in general in Ireland over the course of what has been a fabulous career. The longevity of that career is a testimony to his dedication, commitment and professionalism and a marvellous example to others.”
O’Gara, the Racing website confirmed today, will “join director of rugby Christophe Mombet and coaches as a consultant to pass on his experience” to the youth set-up, while he will also be assistant coach to the senior ranks, specialising in kicking.
His surprise move means the two dominant Irish outhalves of modern times will be united, as coach and player, in targeting the common goals of domestic and European glory for the ambitious French club.
Racing also announced they will be joined by French winger Marc Andreu, prop Walter Desmaison, Georgian international Davit Khinchagishvili, South African international Juandré Kruger (lock), hooker Virgile Lacombe, former Toulon player Benjamin Lapeyre, flankers Wenceslas Lauret and Dan Lydiate (Wales), France under-20 scrumhalf Laurent Magnaval, Northampton Saints props Brian Mujat and Soane Tonga’uiha, Perpignan winger Adrien Plante and Welsh centre Jamie Roberts.