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.
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.
Barrett to Move to Super Rugby Rival?
Beauden Barrett’s future has been under the spotlight for a while now, but could it take a surprise turn?
The 28-year-old has been a long-term target for the Blues, he was even set to join them in 2016 until he re-signed with the Hurricanes, whom he has been with since 2011.
However, the Herald are reporting that he has remained on their radar and they hope to hold talks about a move north for the playmaker.
Only last month, Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree expressed his desire for Barrett to remain at the club and told Radio Sports D’Arcy that they had already started discussing the future.
“First prize for us is that he stays at the Hurricanes in some capacity. There might be a sabbatical involved or he might decide to go and play overseas. The chats that I’ve had with him have all been pretty positive around playing for New Zealand Rugby and his future in New Zealand Rugby, so I think we can probably wait for the rest,” he said.
It is believed that if the 73-capped All Black does make the switch to the Blues that he may only turn out for them come 2021 due to a break away from New Zealand.
The Herald asked the Blues for a comment on the matter to which chief executive of the franchise Michael Redman gave a simple reply.
“Our policy remains unchanged that we never comment on speculation around player or staff recruitment,” he said.
The other possibility for the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year is a move to Europe with reports claiming that French Top 14 teams are vying for his signature and willing to offer him a massive financial contract.
Barrett is the biggest name on the All Black list yet to declare his future intentions, however, if he does move to the Blues it would be a huge signing for a franchise that hasn’t made the Super Rugby play-offs in eight seasons.
Retallick Signs New Deal with a Catch
Brodie Retallick has signed a new deal with New Zealand Rugby but there is a twist in it
The 2014 World Player of the Year has committed to New Zealand until 2023, but he will play in the Japanese Top League in 2020 and 2021 before returning to New Zealand.
The move allows the 28-year-old to spend more time with his family during the extended breaks of the Japanese league and will mean that he can stake his claim for a place in the All Blacks squad for the 2023 World Cup.
Speaking ahead of his move Retallick is excited by the prospect of playing in Japan and admits that one of the main reasons behind his decision is to lessen his workload.
“It has been a big decision to make, but I’m grateful to be able to have the opportunity to head over to Japan and experience not just the rugby but for my family and to be immersed in another culture. I’ve been playing high-octane rugby with the Chiefs and All Blacks since 2012, and while I’ve loved every minute of it and my workload has been managed well, I’ve decided to give my body a break from the New Zealand game, so that ultimately I can extend my career here,” he said.
The lock is also upbeat about his return in 2021, while he has also re-signed with Hawke’s Bay Rugby in his new deal.
“I’m lucky enough to work with a great group of people in both the Chiefs and All Blacks – they’re two teams I love to play for – so I look forward to returning in 2021. Even though I haven’t played for the ‘Mighty Magpies’ for a few years, I do want to acknowledge my connections to Hawke’s Bay and thank them as well for their support,” he added.
Retallick is one of several players that will leave New Zealand’s shores following the World Cup and his deal is similar to that of Sam Whitelock.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew is happy to let one of the country’s star performers take a brief break from the game and is looking forward to his return.
“As all rugby fans know, Brodie is a key player for the All Blacks and Chiefs, one of the leading players in world rugby and an absolute workhorse of a player. He puts his body on the line each and every time he plays and has still performed to the very highest standard. Brodie’s now into his eighth full season of professional rugby, so taking some time out from the New Zealand game will give him time to freshen up physically and mentally and spend more time with his family. We look forward to him returning to the New Zealand fold in 2021, refreshed and raring to go,” he said.
Retallick has been capped 75 times by his country and will be looking to add another World Cup to the one he won with the All Blacks in 2015 when his side head to Japan later this year.
He is set to return to the Chiefs starting line-up for their crunch clash with the Melbourne Rebels this weekend as they hope to secure a play-off spot, having last played for the franchise in round 8 of this season’s Super Rugby.
Oyonnax Capture Signature of Fijian Star
French side Oyonnax have confirmed the signing of a Fijian star along with two other players in one day
The Fijian was one of 12 players to be released by Wasps at the end of the Premiership season but has found a new club quickly.
The 33-year-old has been joined at Oyonnax by Fijian youngster Adrian Sanday (21) and French scrum-half Ilhan El Khattabi.
Lovobalavu is no stranger to French rugby having played for Toulon 86 times between 2008 and 2012, before switching to Bayonne where he made a further 78 appearances until his 2017 move to Wasps.
The centre went on to play for the English side 19 times over two seasons.
He will bring plenty of experience to his new side having also represented Fiji at the 2007 and 2015 World Cups as well as all his appearances at club level.
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