O’Gara takes La Rochelle to Cork to prepare for big Champions Cup clash with Leinster

La Rochelle have not tasted a Champions Cup knockout defeat since the 2021 final loss to Toulouse, and will be confident coming into Leinster fixture

Excitement is building rapidly as we prepare to witness the next instalment of the blossoming European rivalry between Leinster and La Rochelle. Ronan O’Gara’s decision to take his La Rochelle side to Cork to prepare for their goliath Champions Cup clash with Leinster has created vast swathes of interest within the rugby world.

As the reigning Champions Cup winners look to repeat last season’s 27-26 final victory in the Aviva Stadium against Leinster this weekend, Cork is being used as a base to mount this assault as they look to claim their third consecutive European title.

And since landing in O’Gara’s hometown the squad have embraced every second of their Irish training base, according to La Rochelle’s back row forward Judicaël Cancoriet.

“It is good to change,” he said. “To prepare and get directly into the atmosphere already in Ireland is different. It feels similar to a preseason where we’ve had more cohesion by only being with each other for these two weeks. And it brings us even closer.


“It’s the first time that we will have a bit of time to go out. We went training yesterday, and we could see that it’s Ronan’s city, and because of that there are a lot of expectations around the team.”

La Rochelle made history last weekend as they became the first European side to win away in South Africa in the Champions Cup. O’Gara’s side did not make light work of it, as they rarely do in Europe, as they had to overturn a 16-0 half-time deficit to escape Cape Town with a 22-21 victory over the Stormers.

The Herculean effort needed to win this fixture requires as much recovery time as possible to be ready to face the formidable challenge of the four-time Champions Cup winners in their home city, and O’Gara has provided that with the trip to Cork.

Cancoriet said: “The first two days were about recovering and working the mind, especially when talking about all the strategy. We’re very welcome here; there is nothing bad to say. We’ve had the time to recover; we’ve had a day of training yesterday...So there’s no excuse, we’ve had time to deal with the trip.”

There is an inevitability to these two sides facing each other at some stage of this competition should they wish to claim the title by the end of the season. Leinster claimed victory in the last match between the two with a 16-9 pool stage win in France.

However, La Rochelle have not tasted a Champions Cup knockout defeat since the 2021 final loss to Toulouse. They will be confident coming into this fixture but know they need to be at their best having been within a score both times they have beaten Leo Cullen’s men in the final.

He said: “It will be important to be tight. We are in their city, where there is more atmosphere...increasing the tension and pressure. We know that we are going to play against one of the best teams in Europe, with very good players in every position. I try to give my best to the team and also surf this wave of experience that this team has in this competition. But it is important for us to get better. That’s what is important this weekend.”