Two-time European Cup winner Ronan O’Gara will be back in the competition next season, having been named the new head coach of 2019 Challenge Cup finalists La Rochelle.
O’Gara – who leads the all-time European Cup points list with 1,365 – joins the French side from New Zealand-based Crusaders, where he was assistant coach during their Super Rugby success in 2018.
The 42-year-old Irishman already has plenty of coaching experience in European competition, having been defence coach at two-time Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 between 2013 and 2017.
The former Ireland fly-half will work alongside La Rochelle director of rugby Jono Gibbes, who helped the French club to the 2018 Champions Cup quarter-finals as well as the 2019 Challenge Cup final, where they were beaten 36-16 by ASM Clermont Auvergne in Newcastle.
A fifth-place finish in this season’s TOP 14 means La Rochelle will return to the Heineken Champions Cup for the 2019/20 campaign, with the draw for next season’s competition taking place on Wednesday June 19.
Speaking at a press conference in La Rochelle on Wednesday, Gibbes said: “Ronan O’Gara joins the staff as head coach. He knows the TOP 14 well and has plenty of experience, so we are very happy to have him with us next season. He will bring a high level of skill to the coaching staff and I can’t wait to start the season with him alongside Grégory Patat and Akvsenti Giorgadze.”
Vincent Merling, president of La Rochelle, added: “Despite adversity, we have managed to grow this season and it was our most successful in terms of results. With the Challenge Cup final and reaching the semi-final of the TOP 14, the club can be proud.”
For more details about the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage draw, click HERE.