"People associate hardness, ruthlessness and 'Fear of God' with Paul, but that's 1% of him"
"I could continue not being put into a box... because I love big picture too."
It is coming on eight years since Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara last rode into battle together.
A year after O'Gara retired and headed to Paris to start off as skills coach at Racing 92, Anthony Foley stepped up from Munster forwards coach to the head coach role. Many felt O'Gara would come back, sooner rather than later, to get involved with his province too.
O'Gara had different ideas, though, and worked his way up with Racing before heading to New Zealand for 2018 and 2019 Super Rugby campaigns with an excellent Crusaders side. A head coach posting came up at La Rochelle in the autumn of 2019 and O'Gara's homecoming was delayed further.
O'Connell played on until 2016 [although he never played again after the 2015 World Cup] and took a different coaching path. He lent a hand with some of Munster's underage sides before forwards coach roles with Ireland U20s and Stade Francais.
The former Munster and Ireland captain left Stade in 2019 and that could well have been that but, after some time away, coaching lured him back. He was in touch with Andy Farrell on a few occasions in 2020 and has come in as Ireland's forwards coach for the Six Nations, and beyond.
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland [LISTEN from 24:00 below], O'Gara told Eimear Considine what makes O'Connell special as leading voice in Irish rugby.
"I'd be a little bit worried if Paul was going in as head coach of Ireland," Ronan O'Gara begins, "because he doesn't have that experience.
"What is experience? Experience is putting yourself in the same situations, and getting a better result or outcome the next time." O'Gara continues:
"But Paul is doing a role that he is very, very, very good at. He knows the subject matter inside out. He is so well prepared. He's very hard working, has a great brain, very good attitude. He's got many sides to him that a lot of people don't know.
"It's a great time for any forward to be involved in Irish rugby. That's how I would view it. I've come across very, very few people like him in the world. And I've travelled a bit with coaching.
"He's obviously a very good friend but, parking that, I think in terms of judging him, he can call it and give you the harsh truth. But he can also be very warm, very encouraging and a very smart person as well, which is important. People associate hardness and ruthlessness and 'Fear of God' with Paul, but that's 1% of him."
O'Gara has made no secret of his desire to one day become head coach of Ireland.
He has gone abroad to pick up experience working with different, world-class players, coaches and clubs and is now a season and a half into his first head coach gig with La Rochelle. He has that side leading the Top 14 standings and set for the Champions Cup knock-out stages.
On O'Connell, all reports from the Ireland camp are about how much he has improved the set-pieces (lineout and scrum) and the maul. Despite Ireland's opening Six Nations losses, their scrum and lineout have improved on the team's 2020 showings.
We may have to wait a while longer, but do not be surprised if O'Connell and O'Gara do finally link up together again. The only gripe for Munster supporters is that they may be both on the Ireland coaching ticket.
*Ronan O'Gara was helping to launch the Safe To Dream Team, an online hub which aims to improve access for young people on their sporting journey within clubs or at home, through online skills videos, and advice and support from leading sports ambassadors.
WATCH THAT FULL RONAN O'GARA INTERVIEW HERE: