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'I’m very proud, very excited. The club is trying to write a new history'

Ronan O’Gara hopes to see La Rochelle claim their first European title this weekend.

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara.
La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated May 18th 2021, 5:35 PM

LA ROCHELLE HEAD coach Ronan O’Gara remains hopeful that powerful Fijian centre Levani Botia will be fit for Saturday’s Champions Cup final clash with Toulouse.

O’Gara and Jono Gibbes’ side will take on the four-time champions in front of a crowd of up to 10,000 people at Twickenham Stadium in London.

It will be La Rochelle’s first European decider and having Botia back from an ankle injury would be an obvious boost given his impressive form in midfield this season.

“It’s not decided,” said O’Gara of Botia’s possible availability. “It’s only Tuesday and the match is Saturday, there are still some important days ahead.

“He’s a very important player for this club. He’s a player who has a lot of humility and who is important for the group but if he isn’t available it’s not the end of the world.”

Botia picked up the ankle issues during La Rochelle’s impressive semi-final win over Leinster, a victory that greatly boosted the confidence of the French club’s squad.

They now face another European giant in this weekend’s final in the shape of Top 14 rivals Toulouse, who can call on superstars like Antoine Dupont and Cheslin Kolbe.

O’Gara, who has experience of winning two Heineken Cups as a player with Munster, has encouraged his players to view this final as simply another game.

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“It’s a bit of a normal week,” said O’Gara. “The title of the Champions Cup is for you, for me it’s a match, an important match of course, but I can’t change how I behave this week. It’s just like normal.

“I had the luck of experiencing a lot of finals. It’s important to concentrate our energy on 5pm on Saturday. The club doesn’t have the habit of playing in Champions Cup finals but this will be the first and it won’t be the last.

“It’s a great pleasure to coach this group. I’m very proud, very excited. The club is trying to write a new history. The voyage has a starting point and now is the time for this club.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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