O’Gara lands top job at La Rochelle
NEWS: Two-time European Cup winner Ronan O’Gara has been rewarded for helping steer La Rochelle to their maiden Champions Cup semi-final with a promotion to director of rugby.
The 44-year-old Munster Rugby legend, holder of the records for the most points and appearances in European club rugby’s elite competition, will take over from Jono Gibbes, who leaves the TOP 14 club at the end of June.
O’Gara, who scored 1,365 points in 110 European Cup appearances, will step up from his head coach role on July 1 on a three-season contract.
He told the La Rochelle website: “I am extremely proud of the trust that Stade Rochelais continues to show me by appointing me at the head of the team.
“I am obviously very excited about next season, but first, we have important challenges ahead of us and above all a good season to end in the best possible way.”
The French side battled past Sale Sharks to book their place in the 2019 Challenge Cup final 👏
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 21, 2021
These challenges include that first Champions Cup semi-final, at home to Leinster Rugby at Stade Marcel Deflandre on May 2.
La Rochelle said they were “delighted” with O’Gara’s re-engagement until 2024 and “his loyalty to the La Rochelle sporting project”.
“He will continue to strengthen [this] through his managerial skills, his experience at a very high level and his full immersion in the culture of the club,” they added.
Head coach at La Rochelle since July 2019, the ex-Ireland fly-half began his coaching career as defence coach at Racing 92 in 2013, helping them to the French title in 2016, before joining the Crusaders in 2018 as assistant coach and assisting in two Super Rugby titles.
Meanwhile, Clermont announced the appointment of former All Black Jono Gibbes as the Top 14 club’s replacement for departing head coach Franck Azema.
Gibbes will leave his job at La Rochelle at the end of the season to take over from Azema, who is stepping down in order to take up the same role at Montpellier.
Azema, whose contract was due to run until 2023, revealed his exit plans in February. He has been with Clermont for 11 seasons, first as assistant to Vern Cotter and then, since 2014, as head coach.
Gibbes, 44, will return to Clermont in July on a three-year deal, the club said.
He was the forwards coach at Clermont from 2014-17 and helped the club win the French title in his final season.