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15th May 2023

‘If you don’t get better, you get beaten’ – Ronan O’Gara ready to scale another mountain

Patrick McCarry

Ronan O'Gara

‘Normal service du resume’.

That was one part of the Ronan O’Gara press conference – held today at Stade Rochelais Apivia Parc – that I did not need Google Translate for.

Antoine Halstoy and Pierre Bougarit were both up for press duties on the Monday of Champions Cup final week, before O’Gara took his seat for his chat with the reporters present and a few souls (SportsJOE included) on Microsoft Teams.

La Rochelle’s recent win over Toulon all but secured a Top 14 semi-final spot, meaning O’Gara could rest several frontliners for Saturday’s loss to Montpellier. While that result still stings, it is not as jarring as Leinster losing to inter-pro rivals Munster in the United Rugby Championship semi-final.

Asked about that defeat, the winning drop goal from Munster’s Jack Crowley and Leinster being expected to change up much of their starting XV for the Champions Cup final, this weekend, O’Gara said:

“It was a beautiful drop goal – perfect technique and Jack hit it amazingly well. The flight of the ball was perfect. So it was a huge day for Munster. A lot of suffering in the past, so it was great to see the reaction on the faces of the boys, and staff. It meant a lot to them.

“Obviously, Leinster will be disappointed by that but, as you said there, their focus has been on winning Europe and they’ve made their plan that that was the team they were going for. It will be a completely different team, this weekend, from Leinster. We’re expecting the best version of Leinster and the best version of them is a formidable task.

“We know how difficult it is going to be, but we want to test ourselves against the best.”

Ronan O'GaraRonan O’Gara, the La Rochelle head coach, celebrates after their victory during the Heineken Cup Champions Cup semi final match against Exeter Chiefs at Stade Matmut Atlantique. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ronan O’Gara evokes Crusaders slogan

We have been following Stade Rochelais for the past nine months, through our ‘A Season With’ series on RugbyJOE.

Having spoken with players like Dillyn Leyds, Will Skelton and captain Gregory Alldritt about the club’s ambitions, it became clear that aiming for trophies on a domestic and European front is the annual expectation. This is a club hungry for silverware, and eager to catch up on some of the game’s biggest clubs.

“We’re driven by performance, you know, and obviously titles are a result of what you do,” says Ronan O’Gara.

“For me, coaching, a big emphasis is on performance and getting better. If you don’t get better, you get beaten. It’s a slogan from the Crusaders – you get better or you get beaten. I like it, it’s very simple and it is easy to adhere to.

“So, you either have that drive in you to get better, every day, or you get beaten. The boys are showing up well, so far.”

Another O’Gara phrase – this one did need Google Translate – stood out as he looked ahead to the challenge of facing a Leinster team containing a host of some of the world’s best players – beaucoup, beaucoup de hostilité.

He knows what it will take, aside from all the other stuff, to beat this Leinster side in Dublin.


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