Munster legend Ronan O’Gara will not be making a dream return home to Thomond Park as part of Johann van Graan’s coaching reshuffle, with La Rochelle being his next destination.
After two years in Christchurch working under Crusaders mastermind Scott Robertson, O’Gara will leave New Zealand to replace Montpellier-bound Xavier Garbajosa as Les Maritimes head coach.
There will be little in the way of rest for the former Ireland fly-half who is pursuing back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, with the Top 14 pre-season already on the horizon for last weekend’s losing semi-finalists.
“My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Christchurch and were welcomed in to the Crusaders family with open arms when we arrived in early 2018. This is one of the best rugby clubs in the world, and it certainly wasn’t an easy decision to move on from this team and their high-performance environment,” said O’Gara in a statement.
“I’m grateful to the Crusaders for the faith they’ve shown in me as a coach, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside a world-class playing and management group for the last two seasons.
“My focus now is helping to deliver a successful 2019 campaign with the side before my family and I return to France at the end of the season.”
O’Gara disclosed in May that he had ‘two or three other options’ to the one tabled by La Rochelle, which included staying with the Crusaders.
“There’s options at home,” O’Gara told Irish radio station Off The Ball.
“It’s a big decision and one that will take time.
“I’ve been talking to Munster ever since I was a player. I have spoken to them but there are no serious conversations going on because I don’t want it to go that route at the minute.”
O’Gara will join up with La Rochelle director of rugby Jono Gibbes, formerly of Ulster and Leinster, when pre-season starts in mid-July.