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08th Apr 2024

La Rochelle enjoy classic Irish tune on team bus as they roll through Cork

Patrick McCarry

La Rochelle

“The Irish bloody love it!”

Ronan O’Gara has flown in with his entire La Rochelle playing squad and backroom staff for a week of preparations on Irish soil, ahead of this Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter final against Leinster.

O’Gara and La Rochelle hold a 3-1 advantage over Leinster, in their meetings over the past four Champions Cup seasons. The Top 14 side beat Leinster in the 2021 semi final, and the 2022 and 2023 finals. Leinster gained a small measure of revenge with a pool stage win, at Stade Marcel Deflandre, back in December but must repeat that dose if they are to secure a semi-final at Croke Park, against either Northampton or Bulls, in May,

Over 35,000 tickets have been sold for this weekend’s last eight clash, at Aviva Stadium, and it will definitely be the tie of the round. To keep their chances of a fifth European Cup alive, Leinster must knock off the reigning, back-to-back champs at the venue where they were defeated in last season’s final.

O’Gara has taken the novel approach of flying his squad into Cork and setting up camp in his home county as La Rochelle prepare to take on the Blues. The former Munster and Ireland outhalf tweeted out ‘Home, sweet home’ upon touching down in the Rebel County, this morning, and La Rochelle lock Ultan Dillane was up front in the team bus, pumping out the Irish tunes for his teammates.

Dillane shared a video from the team bus of the squad soaking in the Pete St John tune, Fields of Athenry. The former Connacht lock, who spent a number of years living in Tralee, gauged the reaction of his teammates, Dillyn Leyds, Ihaia West and a cheery Will Skelton as the song blasted out:

La Rochelle
Ultan Dillane of La Rochelle with his winner’s medal after the Heineken Champions Cup Final match against Leinster, at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Ultan Dillane and La Rochelle targeting more Champions Cup glory

There has been some speculation that Ultan Dillane may be in line for a summer switch to Munster, who will lose RG Snyman to Leinster once the season ends.

Should Dillane be heading back to Ireland, he would surely love to sign off with more silverware. La Rochelle are currently 5th in the domestic, Top 14 standings and will have to win on the road if they are to retain their Champions Cup crown.

They defeated Stormers in Cape Town, on Saturday (clip below) and play in Dublin this weekend. They would have to travel to England or South Africa, should they beat Leinster, as both Northampton and Bulls finished with more pool stage points.

Perhaps Ronan O’Gara is hoping to instil his La Rochelle side with that Munster spirit, as his former province won five straight away games, last season, to capture the United Rugby Championship crown.


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