O'Gara heading to Crusaders

Ronan O'Gara. Photo: Getty Images
Ronan O'Gara. Photo: Getty Images
It's official. Irish great Ronan O'Gara is heading to the Crusaders as backs coach next year.

A matter of hours after French club Racing granted O'Gara an early release, the Crusaders confirmed his signing on what's thought to be a two-year deal.

O'Gara, the three-time British and Irish Lions tourist and Irish centurion who also played over 200 games for Munster, was under contract with the French Top 14 club until 2019, but they did not stand in the way of the desire to further his career in New Zealand.

Since retiring from international rugby and ceding the Irish throne to Jonathan Sexton, O'Gara has spent the past five years at Racing as defence mentor where he also worked alongside Dan Carter.

O'Gara seems a natural fit to replace Leon MacDonald who announced he would step back from the Crusaders and return to Tasman to be closer to his family.

Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga will be working closing with O'Gara and when he first heard the news two weeks ago, he welcomed the move.

In a statement, O'Gara said coaching in New Zealand for a team as respected and successful as the Crusaders was an incredible opportunity at this stage in his coaching career.

"New Zealand sets the bar in world rugby, and Super Rugby is recognised as one of the toughest international rugby tournaments. So to coach in New Zealand – for the current Super Rugby champions – is an inticing prospect for any coach. I cannot wait to join Scott Robertson, Brad Mooar and Jason Ryan in the Crusaders coaching group and to work with the outstanding group of players we have," O'Gara said.

"I have a lot of respect for Scott Robertson, having played against him in two All Blacks v Ireland tests in 2002, and then following his coaching success since. I am sure I can learn a lot from him and the other coaches, management and players at the Crusaders and I hope that I can also make a worthy contribution to the group by bringing my own personal experience and flavour to the team.

"I am immensely grateful to the Racing 92 club for their understanding and cooperation in allowing me an early release to take up this Crusaders role. It is not easy to walk away from the club that gave me my first break in coaching and I will miss all of those I have been lucky enough to work with there. This is an exciting next step in my coaching career though and one that my family and I are ready to make. It is clear that there is a special and successful culture at the Crusaders, which I feel honoured to be invited to be a part of."

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the appointment was exciting for the Crusaders team and fans.

"Ronan O'Gara is one of rugby's international superstars. He was a brilliant player and has gone on to prove himself as an outstanding coach with Racing 92 in Paris. The international experience and exceptional skillset that Ronan can bring to this team is fantastic, and we know that Crusaders fans will be excited to have someone of his calibre joining our coaching group as we seek to defend the Super Rugby title in 2018," Riach said. "We believe that Ronan is the right fit for this team and we cannot wait to have him over here working with us and contributing to our success in the season ahead."

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was thrilled to have O'Gara joining the coaching team.

"The skills and international experience that Ronan brings is the perfect complement to our current coaching group. We are lucky to have the continuity of Brad and Jason in their roles, while Ronan will bring his fresh perspective and new ideas, which is always welcomed. With our coaching group and playing squad now complete, I can't wait to get this 2018 season underway."

O'Gara will be the only foreign coach in the New Zealand Super Rugby set up, other than Welshman Alistair Rogers at the Blues.

Rogers has, however, spent considerable time in New Zealand which included a stint in the All Blacks management team as video analyst.

Add a Comment