'ROG has been awesome... He’s very determined like all the other Irish are'

Ronan O’Gara has had an influence on several of the All Blacks players.

AS HAS BEEN the case for a long time, there is a distinct Crusaders vibe to the latest All Blacks team, with eight players from the Christchurch-based franchise named to start against Ireland in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final, and two more on the bench.

The Crusaders have won a remarkable three Super Rugby titles in a row, so it’s little surprise that they backbone this New Zealand side too.

ronan-ogara O'Gara spent two seasons with the Crusaders. Martin Hunter / INPHO Martin Hunter / INPHO / INPHO

Ronan O’Gara is now ensconced as head coach of La Rochelle in France but there is little doubt that he has played a role in helping a handful of these Crusaders players to get better.

The Cork man spent two seasons as backs coach of the Kiwi side, working under Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson and directly with players like Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Sevu Reece and George Bridge on a daily basis.

Reece’s rise from a cancelled contract at Connacht to starting at the World Cup has been remarkable and he has already credited O’Gara with guiding him to learn more about defending at the top level.

Bridge, meanwhile, has accelerated in 2019 to become the starter over on the other wing for New Zealand, while Mo’unga’s incredible form and improvement in recent seasons has seen Steve Hansen shift Beauden Barrett out of the number 10 shirt to make way for the Crusader.

Mo’unga’s kicking game appeared to improve under O’Gara’s guidance, while some of the former Munster and Ireland out-half’s mentality has rubbed off on the All Blacks out-half too.

“ROG has been awesome,” said Mo’unga today in Tokyo. “He’s still really hard to understand so I take very little from our conversations but what he is like, he’s very determined like all the other Irish are, very driven and that gives me a little insight into what Irish are like.

“So I know this week is going to be a very tough test and they’re going to come guns blazing.”

richie-mounga-scores-a-try Mo'unga is a key man for the All Blacks. Photosport / Marty Melville/INPHO Photosport / Marty Melville/INPHO / Marty Melville/INPHO

All Blacks captain and number eight Kieran Read has obviously worked with some of the very best coaches in the game, but he was similarly praising of the impact O’Gara had on the Crusaders during his two seasons in Christchurch.

Read said texts to O’Gara looking for inside info haven’t been getting much response.

“ROG is pretty set on [the fact that] he’s an Irish lad, isn’t he?” said the All Blacks skipper. “So he hasn’t given too much away.

“He’s someone who has had an impact on us at Crusaders and the players there, just in the way he prepares. He’s pretty methodical so it’s been nice to have a few chats with him.”

Originally published at 11.48

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