RONAN O’GARA HAS revealed his target of one day coaching Ireland, but insists Joe Schmidt’s current crop can bridge the gap to New Zealand and conquer the world this season.
Schmidt’s Ireland claimed an autumn clean sweep, a Six Nations Grand Slam, and an historic 2-1 series win in Australia last season in what was a year to remember.
With the 2019 World Cup on the horizon, Irish eyes are now turning to Japan where O’Gara believes the men in green will push the All Blacks close.
“Ireland are hugely consistent and they have a great coach while they have a lot of competition for places. Of course they can go and win the World Cup,” said O’Gara.
“We wanted to win it when I was playing, but we weren’t good enough or consistent enough. That’s the challenge for this current group who have been really impressive.
“I think they’ll most definitely make it to a semi-final and the gap to New Zealand is bridgeable.
“If New Zealand play you 10 times they’d probably beat you more often than you beat them, but that’s not to say they can’t be beaten on any given day.
“Ireland have a coach who believes they can win the World Cup and maybe should win it, which is a big comment. With the belief they have from him anything is possible.”
O’Gara – who made 128 Ireland appearances and is a three-time British & Irish Lion – was inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Since retiring in 2013, he has impressed in assistant coaching roles with French side Racing 92 and currently New Zealand Super Rugby giants Crusaders.
His long-term goal nonetheless remains clear, with a return to Ireland the aim in the future. It is also understood O’Gara will have the option of returning to Racing as head coach, too.
“Of course I’d like to coach Ireland,” O’Gara said. “Five years into my playing career I wasn’t the best player I could be and it’s harder in coaching because there is more to learn.
“It’s hard to get the jobs and opportunities I’ve been given. You have to make the most of them. Someone can open a door for you, but you have to take the gap when it’s there.
“I’m not too bothered about my title, I just want to be in a group where I’m valued and I get the best out of the people around me. The great thing about rugby is the best people get the best jobs now.
“That’s a lesson Ireland have probably learnt from in the past; that it’s not always best for an Irishman to coach Ireland.
“If you look at the man who’s coaching there at the moment, he’s the best man for the job. If you’re the best you should get it and if you’re not, you shouldn’t.”
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