O'Gara forever grateful to Crusaders boss Robertson as he gets set 'to front up from day one' in NZ

The Corkman has three games left at Racing 92 before flying out to New Zealand.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

WHILE MOST OF us will be rolling from Christmas weekend to New Year’s weekend, perhaps bemoaning the need to pop into work for a day or two, Ronan O’Gara will be embarking on the next stage of his coaching adventure.

O’Gara headed up TV3′s launch of their Six Nations coverage at the Aviva Stadium yesterday, but Ireland’s most in-demand coach will only be able to lend his talents to the tournament’s new broadcaster for the opening two weeks of the competition on 3 and 10 February.

With Crusaders kicking off the defence of their Super Rugby crown on 24 February against the Chiefs – and then playing on each of the following six weekends – O’Gara’s return to Europe comes with the blessing of the Kiwi powerhouse at a late stage in their pre-season.

“The Six nations is a four-year commitment to (TV3),” says the Grand Slam-winning out-half.

“I have to respect that, but what drives me is coaching. I’ll get two games minimum. There might be a gap week then you might get back.  But I’m looking beyond this season for TV3 as well.”

O’Gara will finish up with Racing 92, currently fourth in a congested Top14, after the home clash with Toulouse on 22 December. Six days later he he treks ahead to set up camp for his family in New Zealand.

Once there, O’Gara will be an oddity. That rarest of species in the southern hemisphere: a European coach. Almost all the coaching traffic in rugby flows from south to north following the finance. And when Irish coaches such as Leo Cullen, Girvan Dempsey and Bernard Jackman have travelled to New Zealand, they have successfully crammed their  knowledge in on much shorter stints.

O’Gara will be fully immersed.

“We can all go anywhere in the world to watch or to shadow coaches, but I think it will be very different for me going into their environment as assistant coach.

You’ve got to work. You’ve got to hit the ground running. I gotta front up. It’s important… I’m not going there to learn… of course I am going there to learn, but I’m going to hit the ground running and I have to front up from day one.”

There are a plethora of reasons why the path O’Gara is on is not a well-trodden one. The Corkman suggests it may relate to this first generation of professional players now entering the backroom. It’s also a long way to go with cap in hand or for anything other than an incredible opportunity.

From Crusaders and Scott Robertson’s perspective, they see O’Gara as an opportunity too. A chance to sponge up the sort of northern hemisphere nous that left them a distant second place to the Lions in June – when, as Super Rugby champions, they expected to be the tourist’s most formidable opponent.

“There would have been a load of local guys looking to get that job. I have to take my hat off to Scott Robertson. There was an instant chemistry between the two of us when we started talking rugby. I suppose he’s gone out there and he’s signed me.

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“Obviously, for the rest of my career, I’ll be grateful to him.”

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“It was a potential opportunity to go, one that filled me with excitement. Deep down I have always trusted my instincts that this is something that could be really interesting. I didn’t ask to go, they came looking for me which is great.”

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