Ronan O’Gara banned for La Rochelle’s Champions Cup opener vs Leinster

Irish coach has been handed a one-week touchline suspension for his conduct during a recent defeat to Racing 92

La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara will watch his side’s Champions Cup opener against Leinster from the stands after he was handed a one-week suspension for ‘indiscipline’ by French rugby’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby.

The former Irish outhalf was referred to committee following La Rochelle’s 32-10 defeat against Racing 92 at La Defense Arena last month.

One of several La Rochelle coaches who were angered over refereeing decisions during the match, notably when Racing winger Juan Imhoff appeared to play the ball illegally, preventing Judicael Cancoriet from scoring, O’Gara’s suspension comes after a spell of interactions with rugby officials.

It is understood that while O’Gara is permitted in the stadium, he cannot be on the sidelines, in the tunnel or the team changing room during the visit of Leinster to Stade Marcel Deflandre.

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A periodic and outspoken critic of the standard of officiating in the French Top 14, one that has earned O’Gara several reprimands and a cumulative total of 20 weeks in suspensions, has highlighted a testy relationship with the French authorities.

Over a year ago that he received his heaviest sanction, a 10-week touchline ban, following comments made to the Top 14′s head of referees. He previously incurred suspensions in November 2021 (two weeks) following a match against Toulon, April 2022 (two weeks) after a game against Racing 92 and six weeks in the wake of a match against Lyon at the start of the 2022-2023 season.

He also had a touchline contretemps with the then Bordeaux-Begles coach Christophe Urios in April, 2022 with both of them subsequently warned by the French rugby authorities. O’Gara said at the time: “I’m a young coach and I talk a lot and I like my players to hear me on the pitch. His [Urios’] reaction shows how tense the game was, but it’s over, and we move on. It’s nothing big, it’s just rugby.”

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Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times