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O'Gara has his say on being the bookies' favourite for Munster job

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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Ronan O’Gara has ruled himself out of the running to succeed Johann van Graan at Munster, the La Rochelle boss admitting that the speculation about him returning to Ireland will go no further than the courtesy call he received in midweek. Twice a European title winner as a player, the coach was quickly anointed the bookies’ favourite to take over when it was confirmed that van Graan would move on next summer to become head coach at Bath. 

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O’Gara, though, is midway through his first season in sole charge at La Rochelle where his current deal runs through to 2023 and he has no intention of breaking that contract. Writing in his must-read weekly Irish Examiner column, O’Gara explained: “I am in a very happy place personally and professionally here in La Rochelle. 

“I love Munster rugby, I always will, but now is not the time. It is always nice to be considered a potential candidate, and I’ve had an initial courtesy call, but it goes no further.

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“I have signed a contract until 2023 and I have never broken one. I’d like to think I’m a man of my word and if I was to walk on La Rochelle after five months as head coach, I’d be some Judas. The Top 14 is the best league in the world, it’s a ballbreaker at times but it’s a brilliant rollercoaster experience for all that.

“I’ve done a few contracts as a coach since 2013 and in most of them, the question is asked: do you have an out in the contract to coach Munster or Ireland in the future? I don’t. It is not something I have ever specified, and that’s important. These are massive decisions in a person’s life so don’t think for a minute that Munster thoughts were fleeting and then out of my head.”

O’Gara went on to talk about other names that could be in contention to take over at Munster. “World-class coaches would definitely be interested in coaching Munster. Take that as read. There are options in terms of structuring a new management team – whether they do director of rugby and a head coach, or a pair of head coaches like I had with Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit at Racing 92. Mike Prendergast and Graham Rowntree could work well.

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“Some speculation is already pointing towards New Zealand, which is interesting. Scott Robertson would want to coach the All Black next, so that is very doubtful. Jason Holland is with the Hurricanes now… but I would imagine Munster’s wellbeing would always interest him and he is a bloody brilliant coach with a bundle of knowledge from both hemispheres at this stage.

“It’s not like there’s a shortage of good options closer to home. I haven’t seen Mark McCall’s name mentioned so far though I am not sure why. He would be an outstanding candidate, has done it at the highest level and could be someone ripe for a new challenge.”

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