Ronan O’Gara ‘honoured’ to join Crusaders as a coach
Racing 92 ‘did not want to deprive one of its faithful servants of a great opportunity’
Ronan O’Gara will join up with The Crusaders next month. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Racing 92 have confirmed that Ronan O’Gara will depart the French club at the end of next month to move to New Zealand, where he will join Super Rugby side Crusaders as assistant coach to Scott Robertson.
In a short statement released on Wednesday morning Racing confirmed that despite the former Munster and Ireland outhalf being under contract until July 2019, he will be released at the end of December. This is because the club “did not want to deprive one of its faithful servants of a great opportunity”.
The Crusaders have won a record eight Super rugby titles and while it’s a very exciting move for O’Gara, the news will come as a blow to Munster and Ireland back Simon Zebo. He will join the Paris based club next season.
“New Zealand sets the bar in world rugby, and Super Rugby is recognised as one of the toughest international rugby tournaments,” O’Gara said.
“So to coach in New Zealand – for the current Super Rugby champions – is an inticing prospect for any coach. I cannot wait to join Scott Robertson, Brad Mooar and Jason Ryan in the BNZ Crusaders coaching group and to work with the outstanding group of players we have.
“I have a lot of respect for Scott Robertson, having played against him in two All Blacks v Ireland tests in 2002, and then following his coaching success since. I am sure I can learn a lot from him and the other coaches, management and players at the Crusaders and I hope that I can also make a worthy contribution to the group by bringing my own personal experience and flavour to the team.
“I am immensely grateful to the Racing 92 club for their understanding and cooperation in allowing me an early release to take up this Crusaders role. It is not easy to walk away from the club that gave me my first break in coaching and I will miss all of those I have been lucky enough to work with there. This is an exciting next step in my coaching career though and one that my family and I are ready to make. It is clear that there is a special and successful culture at the Crusaders, which I feel honoured to be invited to be a part of.”
When asked on Tuesday about the possibility of O’Gara joining the Crusaders’ coaching staff, Irish scrum coach Greg Feek ventured: “The Crusaders are a big part of my rugby career and a lot of the coaching stuff I know. The key thing there is it is about people first and foremost.
“Rog will slide in like a hand in a glove. It is a credit to him that he’s been approached. If you get the right people into the Crusader environment, then that’s a win straight away. In terms of the knowledge you have, that will come and, in terms of how you coach, that will come.
“Players will welcome him in with open arms if he goes there. The only thing he might need is an interpreter,” Feek joked.
“Apart from that, I think he will enjoy it. I got to know him really well in New York. He is a top man. He is just so keen to learn. I forgot I was chatting to a guy who played over 100 Tests for Ireland. He doesn’t have a big ego. If it ends up happening, fair play to him.”
O’Gara has been involved with Racing 92 since July 2013, reaching the European Champions Cup final in 2016 and winning the French Top 14 title in the same season. They released the following statement (translated) on Wednesday:
“Ronan O’Gara, assistant coach in the technical staff of Racing 92, at the club since July 2013, has been asked by the New Zealand province Crusaders to occupy, from January 1st 2018, the position of coach assistant in charge of three quarters.
“The former number 10 of the team from Ireland wished to respond favorably to this proposal which will allow him to enrich his knowledge of rugby and improve his training methods.
“Racing 92 did not want to deprive one of its loyal servants of a great development opportunity. Thus, despite his contract running until 2019, Ronan O’Gara will be released from his obligations to the club at the end of December. For its part, Racing 92 will obviously compensate for this departure and reorganise to maintain all its competitiveness.
“Jacky Lorenzetti, President of Racing 92, joins his trainers Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers to wish good luck to Ronan who notably worked to conquer the Brennus Shield at Camp Nou in June 2016.”