Brian O’Driscoll has hailed Ronan O’Gara as one of world rugby’s most exciting coaches.
O’Gara, a long time Ireland and Lions team mate of O’Driscoll, is 80 minutes from a return to the final of the Champions Cup, which he won twice as a player with Munster.
Victory over Leinster at Stade Marcel-Deflandre tomorrow would take O’Gara’s La Rochelle to their first final.
It would also suggest O’Gara, the tournament’s all-time record points scorer, is bound for the very highest level of coaching.
“He’s building some reputation isn’t he?” said O’Driscoll. “And he’s done it the hard way. Gone to France (Racing 92), gone to New Zealand (Crusaders), now back to France.
“He’s made some tough decisions to build on his skillset – take the family around the world, leave them behind at times – and now has a very clear idea of what sort of coach he wants to be and the way he wants to play the game.”
O’Driscoll’s only advice for his old pal, who won 128 caps and toured three times with the Lions, is not to be in any rush to get to the top as “the Munster job, and potentially Ireland too, will be there in time”.
“He’s only 44,” said BO’D. “I’d say there’s absolutely no rush for him to leave a good thing in La Rochelle where he’s clearly developing that squad.”
Les Maritimes clearly agree and, win or lose tomorrow, will promote him to director of rugby on a new three-year deal when Jono Gibbes leaves for Clermont this summer.
With Toulouse and Bordeaux-Begles contesting today’s first semi-final it seems strange that tournament chiefs have decided the final, originally slated for Marseille, will be staged at Twickenham on May 22.
The reason is that up to 10,000 fans will by then be able to attend in England – but not in France.