Stade Rochelais lock Romain Sazy hailed head coach Ronan O’Gara after he led the French side to back-to-back Heineken Champions Cup titles.
La Rochelle recovered from 17-0 down to beat Leinster Rugby 27-26 in Dublin on Saturday, following up on their maiden Heineken Champions Cup crown last season.
Sazy has been with La Rochelle for over a decade and experienced a huge shift in the club’s mentality towards the Heineken Champions Cup when former Ireland fly-half O’Gara, the all-time leading points scorer in the competition and a two-time winner as a player with Munster Rugby, took charge in 2021.
“I am very lucky. I am very respectful of what Ronan has brought us,” Sazy said. “We needed that.
“He inspired us to be able to win this competition. This game was crazy. We can be in monster mode. We are hard to play.
The port scenes are back 🤩
This is what the #HeinekenChampionsCup means to a town like @staderochelais 💛#ItJustHitsDifferent pic.twitter.com/UGjUVBaQgC
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 20, 2023
“We took a lot of energy from each other in the fight. We have a very strong rugby group and humanly we can do incredible things.
“Today, I don’t play with friends, I play with brothers.”
Sazy says La Rochelle prepared for an early Leinster onslaught at the Aviva Stadium, and although they didn’t expect to leak three tries in the first quarter of an hour, there was no panic among the players.
“We expected a first 20 minutes of very strong engagement,” the 36-year-old said.
“We knew they were going to put a lot of volume. Their game plan was perfect but oddly I didn’t see any concern in our team’s eyes.
“At half-time, we were calm. We put them in trouble in front by playing our rugby with a lot of character.”