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'I'm not surprised': The O'Driscoll verdict on O'Gara for England

By Liam Heagney
Irish champions Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara. (Photo by Peter Muhly/AFP via Getty Images)

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Brian O’Driscoll has given his verdict on Ronan O’Gara ambitiously throwing his hat into the mix for the England head coach job. La Rochelle coach O’Gara was asked during an appearance on Rugby Tonight whether he would consider becoming the English boss and the Irishman’s reply was intriguing with the race now on for the RFU to identify a successor to Eddie Jones post the 2023 World Cup.  

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Yeah, it would be a great job I think actually. Yeah, what a team. There’s so much potential there,” replied O’Gara to BT Sport presenter Craig Doyle on Sunday evening. “There is serious rugby players and serious passion for the game in England. It’s a cracking job, you’d love to have a go off that.” 

O’Gara’s candid admission generated a flurry of headlines on either side of the Irish Sea as the assumption was that the former Munster and Ireland player would eventually return home to coach either club or country following a tracksuit apprenticeship that started out at Racing, continued at the Crusaders in New Zealand and has now taken another leap forward by the 45-year-old taking on the top job at La Rochelle. 

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O’Driscoll, who these days works as a pundit with BT Sport, was intrigued by what he heard last weekend. When asked on Tuesday by RugbyPass in a feature interview to be published later this week what he made of the O’Gara for England headlines, he suggested that the allegiances people have when they are players don’t apply in coaching when it comes to the most attractive jobs. 

“The thing with allegiances as a player, they go as soon as you retire,” explained O’Driscoll about O’Gara, his fellow Irish Test centurion who is nearing the end of his ninth season as a coach following his 2013 retirement as a player. 

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“When you are a coach that goes out the window. I couldn’t have thought of anyone more of a Munster man than Denis Leamy, but yet there he is with the Leinster set-up and the Leinster environment. Work is work but also you want to work to be able to learn more and ultimately bring it back to your own province or the team that pulls on your heartstrings the most. 

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“It’s Munster or Ireland I would imagine with Rog, but the most attractive jobs are very attractive as a coach. It is not to do with who you have got the most ties with. That is gone. Those days are past when you cease to be a player. I’m not surprised Rog got asked the question, ‘Would he be interested in the English job?’ He said he would. Lots of great players to choose from, lots of ambition, so why wouldn’t you want to be involved in a ticket like that if you were a coach?”

O’Driscoll and O’Gara spent 14 years together as Ireland players, the midfielder enjoying a Test career that was two years longer as he started in 1999 and finished in 2014 – unlike O’Gara who made a 2000 debut and retired in 2013. He has watched his former teammate’s coaching career with great interest in recent years, but does he think O’Gara really has the attributes to genuinely be considered as the next England coach?

“He has got a very clear understanding on how he wants to play the game,” enthused O’Driscoll about the credentials O’Gara has for the England job. “He is a good strategist, he is very passionate about bringing his point of difference, a very personable guy, creates a good fun environment to be around and to be in, so he has got all of the traits that you would imagine you need for a coach. 

“International coaching is slightly different. You need a wealth of knowledge and understanding as to how to do a top job. Maybe it’s a little bit early for him to be getting into international coaching but it feels inevitable that it will come down the line.”   

  • BT Sport is the home of the European Rugby Champions Cup. The 2021/22 season continues with a weekend full of games, including Connacht vs Leinster live on BT Sport 1 at 7.15pm on Friday, April 8. Find out more information on how to watch at BT Sport bt.com/sport
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