Ronan O’Gara has confirmed that he will take up the role of head coach with French side La Rochelle for the 2019/20 Top 14 season.
The former Ireland out-half will leave the Crusaders, where he has been their backs coach, at the end of the Super Rugby season.
O’Gara and the Crusaders have a chance to win a third successive Super Rugby title this year and he has paid tribute to franchise’s staff and players, admitting it is not easy to depart.
“My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Christchurch and were welcomed into the Crusaders family with open arms when we arrived in early 2018. This is one of the best rugby clubs in the world, and it certainly wasn’t an easy decision to move on from this team and their high-performance environment. I’m grateful to the Crusaders for the faith they’ve shown in me as a coach, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside a world-class playing and management group for the last two seasons,” he said.
Although he set for the exit door and is excited about his new move, he has not completely shut out the possibility of a return to the Christchurch-based club in the future.
“While I see this move to La Rochelle as the next step in my coaching career and an exciting opportunity for my young family, I’d like to think, long-term, this is not necessarily the end of my time with the Crusaders. My focus now is helping to deliver a successful 2019 campaign with the side before my family and I return to France at the end of the season,” he added.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson is delighted for his colleague and is grateful for everything he has help the franchise achieve since his arrival.
“Ronan quickly endeared himself to our playing group when he joined us last season and has established great relationships with our backs. He stepped into this environment and really challenged our thinking early on, providing the fresh perspective we were after in our coaching group. We’ve seen a huge amount of personal growth in Ronan during his time here, he continues to be a great friend to me and he’s been an integral part of our success to date. On behalf of the Crusaders team, we wish Ronan and his family all the very best on their return to France,” he said.
Meanwhile the side’s CEO Colin Mansbridge added to Robertson’s tribute to O’Gara and is looking forward to the last couple of months with the coach before he heads back to France.
“We’ve been fortunate to have someone of Ronan’s calibre join our organisation for the past two seasons, and he has certainly added to the legacy of our club during his time here, imparting his knowledge of the game and immense international experience on our playing group. We look forward to celebrating the rest of the season with him and, come the end of our 2019 campaign, wish Ronan, Jess and family all the very best for their next chapter,” he said.
O’Gara was previously the assistant coach of Racing 92 in France, but this will be his first job leading a club and adds to his ever-growing CV.
Former England Hooker Heading to Jersey
One of England’s former stars has confirmed that he will be joining the coaching set up of the Jersey Reds at the end of the current campaign
Former England hooker Rob Webber is heading to the Jersey Reds at the end of the current campaign as the side’s forwards coach.
The current Sale Sharks star will take over from Neil Tunnah, who is leaving after three years at the club and he is delighted to be starting a new chapter in the sport.
“I am really excited about moving to Jersey and joining The Reds’ coaching team. It’s a great opportunity for me and my family as I set out on the next phase of my career. It is an exciting squad that Harvey and the guys are putting together and I look forward to contributing to helping the lads push on. I’d like to thank Harvey and (Reds Chairman) Mark Morgan for giving me the opportunity,” he said on the move.
The 16-cap England international will link-up with former team-mate Harvey Biljon, the club’s director of rugby and Biljon welcomed Webber, admitting he stood out among a list of strong candidates.
‘We’ve spoken to some very high-quality individuals about the role, but Rob stood out and I’ve had a lot of positive endorsements from people I respect. He knows the game and is very articulate and I believe his character will really transmit itself to the others he’ll be working with. There’s a lot of excitement about Rob’s arrival and it will be great to have him working in harness with (Assistant Coach) Ed Robinson – two really promising young English coaches,” he said.
The 33-year-old will bring a vast amount of experience to the team after announcing he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.
During a career spanning 17 years, he has represented Leeds Tykes, Wasps, Bath and Sale as well as England which has seen him compete and be successful in European and domestic competition as well as playing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Saracens Facing Fight to Keep Vunipola Brothers
England star duo Mako and Billy Vunipola are looking at their options for next season and considering leaving Saracens according to reports
Saracens could be without both Mako and Billy Vunipola next season as the pair are being chased by a number of Super Rugby franchises according to a report in the NZ Herald.
The report states that the brothers may have already held talks with some of the Super Rugby sides as they consider their options following Saracens relegation to the Championship for a breach of salary cap regulations.
Both are in the final year of their current contract with Sarries and having forged their names at the club they have gone on to become two of England’s key men.
With Mako at 29, and Billy 27, the pair are in their prime and may not like the thought of playing against weaker sides in the English second-tier next season, despite talks of Saracens organising “bigger” matches against teams outside the league, including the possibility of a game with the Springboks to keep their stars at their best.
As well as possibly not being attracted to facing weaker opponents on a weekly basis the brothers will be aware that they will need to put their best foot forward at the highest level next year in order to make it into the British and Irish Lions squad for their tour of South Africa.
They wouldn’t be the first Englishmen to head down south in recent times with fellow England international Joe Marchant on the books at the Blues this year.
It would be a massive coup for the competition if they chose to head to Super Rugby, with fears that interest is lowering lately due to the number of key southern hemisphere players heading elsewhere for more luxurious contracts, but we will have to wait and see what develops over the coming months.
Skelton Set for Summer Move from Saracens
Australian second-row ace Will Skelton looks set for a move away from Saracens this summer, but Rugby Australia won’t be happy with his choice of destination according to reports
Rugby Australia appear set to miss out on bringing Will Skelton back to Australia once again with a move to France looking imminent according to reports.
The giant second-row has been a target for Rugby Australia since before last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, but he decided to remain in England with Saracens ruling him out of contention to feature for the Wallabies due to their overseas laws.
However, they took another shot at getting his signature once Saracens salary cap scandal unfolded, believing it was the perfect opportunity to bring him home.
Talks took place with the 27-year-old but reports in France are now claiming that a deal with French Top 14 side La Rochelle will be confirmed shortly.
It would be another big-money move for the lock, but once more he would be unable to represent his country as he falls well short of the 60-caps needed for an overseas player to be eligible to be called-up.
Failing to tie-down a star name like Skelton again would be a major blow for Rugby Australia and may cause them to consider altering their current rules around the Giteau Law as they are missing out on being able to select some of their best players because of it.