RICHIE MCCAW HAS backed Ronan O’Gara to succeed in New Zealand, and believes that his northern hemisphere influence will add a welcome new dimension to the Crusaders’ Super Rugby challenge next season.
It was confirmed yesterday morning that O’Gara will depart Racing 92 to take up a coaching role with the reigning Super Rugby champions.
The former Ireland out-half will begin his new role in New Zealand in the New Year, officially picking up the reins as backs coach on 1 January 2018.
It’s a move that’s seen as the next step on the coaching ladder for 40-year-old O’Gara, and All Blacks great McCaw is first to agree.
Ideally versed to share his thoughts after spending 14 years at the Christchurch outfit and knowing New Zealand rugby inside out, McCaw is eager to see what O’Gara can bring to his new role.
“It’s quite exciting,” he said.
“It’s exciting from a Crusaders point of view to have the first sort of northern hemisphere influence on the Crusaders. I’m thinking that the time Ronan had at Racing around guys like Dan Carter and Casey Laulala, O’Gara, he knew that it was the right place to go.
“The Crusaders boys would ask the same questions. There’s no doubt that he’s got a pretty good rugby brain and he’ll bring some new ideas and stuff that the Crusaders that will be pretty keen to hear.”
The culture and environment is a special one, McCaw says, and he backs O’Gara to thrive there.
“I think the Crusaders traditionally would be the most successful franchise in Super Rugby,” he continues. “I think the culture and what the team stands for has been pretty well set up right from day one, led by guys like Wayne Smith and Todd Blackladder.
“It’s got a great culture. They’ve just come off winning the last Super Rugby. It’s a pretty successful franchise which I think do things pretty damn well. It’s always the team comes first before the individual, that’s the ethos of the team so he’ll be coming into that.
“The guys are always trying to be better and succeed, and they’ll pick Ronan’s brain for experiences and ideas. I think it’ll be great.”
“It’s something that’s slightly unique. I think knowing the guys that he’ll be coaching and the way that the Crusaders’ set-up is, they’ll embrace (it).
“I’m sure he’ll have some different ways of looking at things, he’ll probably take a while to get up to speed with the Crusaders’ work and their way of doing things.
“It’s not as if he’s coming in as head coach, (Scott) Robertson’s there and you’ve obviously got his philosophy on how the team goes and they’ll want to build on what they did last year, but having O’Gara there is something different. I think it’s a pretty good move.”
McCaw himself is keeping busy and enjoying his retirement since he hung up his boots in 2015. His main role, he says, is a commercial helicopter pilot with Christchurch Helicopters.
“Really enjoying the challenge that comes with that,” he smiles, and adds that he’s really gotten into adventure racing so there’s plenty of training involved with that too.
“I thought I’d have a lot more time on my hands when I finished playing, I’ve got less! But I’m doing things I really enjoy as well.”
When he stepped away from the game, McCaw said that he wanted to take a complete break from rugby and had no immediate plans to venture into coaching.
And last night, his thoughts remained the same.
“To be honest, no I don’t,” he said, when asked if he had any plans to move into that side of rugby.
“I haven’t really got that desire to go and coach. Secondly, I haven’t got time to think like that.
“I think what would have happened if I didn’t have something like the helicopters to get my teeth into and had a bit of time on my hands, that’s when you’d maybe start thinking ‘Perhaps I could go coaching’ or that could be an option.
“But at the moment I’m really happy doing what I’m doing. I just don’t have time. To be honest, I’m enjoying just watching rugby from afar, on the TV, from the stand, I’m getting my enjoyment out of rugby from that.”
AIG Ambassador Richie McCaw is helping promote AIG Ireland’s Bring on Tomorrow campaign, a series of initiatives around risk prevention, road safety and customer education. For more information, please visit www.aig.ie
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