Johnny Sexton hails Ronan O’Gara’s influence at Racing 92
Leinster outhalf envisages a day when old rival takes up a coaching role in Ireland
Racing Metro coach Ronan O’Gara with Jonathan Sexton during the Dubliner’s stint in Paris. Photograph: Harold Cunningham/Inpho
Johnny Sexton believes Ronan O’Gara could return to Munster and even Ireland as a coach. The two had a prickly relationship when they competed for the Irish number 10 jersey as players but Sexton has since worked under O’Gara as a coach during his two years at Racing Metro 92.
O’Gara is now in his first major European final as a coach, with Racing taking on Saracens in the Champions Cup final in Lyon on Saturday.
O’Gara first joined the French club in 2013, shortly after announcing his retirement from playing and recently signed a contract which will keep him in Paris until 2019.
“I suppose Rog’s input when I was there was limited in the first year,” said Sexton. “He got more involved in the second year when his French was better and he knew the coaches better. I presume he’s taken a bigger role this year.
“Obviously, we became great friends. We spent a lot of time together over there. Working day-to-day was great, just chatting to him. I think he has a real future in coaching. He is contracted there for another few years.
“Then, you could see him coming back to Munster or even Ireland. You never know. He has done it the right way. He went away. He is building into it.”
The right way maybe, although Saracens’ innovative head coach Mark McCall as well as Conor O’Shea have been abroad for some years and have shown no signs of making a return to the domestic scene.
O’Gara is still learning different facets of the coaching game and for a player who had much more influence on Munster and Ireland’s attacking play, to have been given a defensive role in Racing might seem an unusual fit.
“I think his role should be what he’s known for, his skills,” added Sexton in an oblique criticism of Racing. “Obviously, as an outhalf, his expertise was in attack. If they gave him the attack, he would have more of an influence. He has been given the defence and you can see that is the most organised part of their game.
“A lot has changed this year over there, from speaking to Rog. His influence would have been key on the whole environment and how the team is run.”
Sexton has mixed feeling about his time in Paris having missed a large chunk of the second season due to injury. But his heart is with the French side going into the weekend against the team he believes is the best in the Premiership.
Many of the names in Racing have changed with the club having recruited some of the most influential players in the world but there are still people at the club with whom Sexton keeps in touch .
“It’s always strange watching your old team,” he says. “I was really happy for the players, the ones I played with. Obviously it’s a very different team to the one I played in . . . in my first year especially.
“Second year we had a few players, a better team. But I obviously missed four or five months of the season so and it didn’t work out in that season. But look, I was really happy for the guys.
“They have got some quality players in Chris Masoe, Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko, three influential guys in the team. You could see that they were the three most influential players on the pitch at the weekend [against Leicester].”