Ronan O’Gara to assume director of rugby role at La Rochelle
Former Irish outhalf has been head coach under Jono Gibbes for last two seasons
Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle host Leinster in the Champions Cup and are well placed to reach the play-offs in the Top 14. File photograph: Getty Images
As expected, Ronan O’Gara is to assume the director of rugby role at La Rochelle at the end of the season on foot of Jono Gibbes moving on to Clermont. The former Munster, Ireland and Lions outhalf has agreed a three-year deal with the Top 14 joint leaders.
“I am extremely proud of the trust that Stade Rochelais continues to show me by appointing me at the head of the team. I am obviously very excited about next season, but first, we have important challenges ahead of us and above all a good season to end in the best possible way,” said O’Gara in a club statement which described him as “head of the professional team for the next three seasons”.
After five seasons as an assistant coach at Racing 92 and then two years with the Crusaders, during which they twice retained their Super Rugby title, O’Gara has been head coach under Gibbes for the last two seasons.
La Rochelle, who have never won a major trophy, host Leinster in the Champions Cup and are well placed to reach the play-offs in the Top 14. Writing in his column in the Irish Examiner, O’Gara has made clear his intentions that les maritimes make that breakthrough sooner rather than later.
“I want to win things now, not eventually. Fortunately, we are phasing out that limited ambition bit by bit.”
French media have long speculated that Gibbes, the former Leinster forwards coach and Ulster head coach, would succeed Frank Azéma at the end of the season and he has signed a two-year deal until 2024.
After his six-year stint with Leinster under first Michael Cheika and then Joe Schmidt, during which time the province won their first three Champions Cups, Gibbes spent three seasons with Clemront as forwards coach from 2014 to 2017, culminating in their second bouclier de brennus in 2017.
The statement by La Rochelle read: “Discussions were initiated a few weeks ago at Jono Gibbes’ request which lead to his early release from June 30th. At the same time, Stade Rochelais has worked to preserve both ambition and stability of its project.
“The club’s priority was to extend its collaboration with its head coach, Ronan O’Gara, and promote him at the head of the professional team. The club is therefore delighted with Ronan’s re-engagement until 2024 and his loyalty to the Stade Rochelais’ project, which he will continue to strengthen through his managerial skills, his top level experience and his full immersion in the club culture.”
The Montpellier multi-millionaire owner Mohad Altrad has admitted his interest in bringing in Azéma, who is completing his 11th season on Clermont’s coaching staff, the last seven of which have been as head coach.