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From Bod’s hat-trick to Sexton’s drop-goal, no opponent has defined this Irish rugby century quite like France

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Saints fans are all saying the same thing about O'Gara's comments about the club

By Ian Cameron
Ronan O'Gara - PA

La Rochelle boss Ronan O’Gara has carved out a reputation for saying exactly what he feels – be it as a pundit or as a coach.

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Some have likened him to fellow Corkonian Roy Keane and the former Munster flyhalf’s comments about Champions Cup opponents Northampton Saints certainly had a Keanesque rawness to them.

After thrashing Saints back in France in December, La Rochelle did the double on the Gallagher Premiership side with a resounding  31-13 victory Heineken Champions Cup at Franklin’s Gardens yesterday after an ill-disciplined outing from the home team.

O’Gara wasn’t happy and suggested the victory over the Englishmen was vexing as La Rochelle failed to exploit a 14-man Saints team that he pointedly described as not being a ‘top side’. In the world of rugby union, where notions of politeness and respect often see coaches refer to weaker opponents as a ‘tough side’ or ‘physical’ after a one-sided victory, O’Gara’s comments were a rare bit of honesty.

“We didn’t have a fear factor of playing here as we demolished Northampton back at our place,” O’Gara said after the game. “We’re trying to tell the players that they [Northampton] have a rich history in the competition, which they have, but they’re not a top side and they’re struggling at the minute. We struggled as well today.”

Maybe a little surprisingly, most Saints fans agreed with the sentiment, hurtful and all as it may have been to be described as not a top side, with many replying as such on a Twitter thread created by rugby writer Tom Vickers.

Former England captain and retired Saints’ veteran Tom Wood applauded O’Gara for giving his honest opinion: “The result and the points he makes hurt as a Northampton man but the honesty and edge in the interview is awesome. Love hearing coaches and players talk like that rather than cliched platitudes.”

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He later qualified his remark somewhat, replying to one Saints fan that: “I wasn’t really referring to the accuracy of what he said because that can often be subjective but I like how bold his comments were.”

Others just straight-up agreed.

“It’s hard to disagree with him,” noted one member of the Saints’ faithful. “Possibly we need more such frankness around the Gardens…?”

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“Can’t disagree at the moment [with O’Gara’s comment],” wrote one frustrated fan. “Too inconsistent; give away too many penalties; struggling scrum; offset by flashes of brilliance and periods of top class play and immense commitment. If we find a real 80-minute game we will be unstoppable.”

Another fan concurred with O’Gara, their only complaint being that O’Gara kept on standing in front of them: “Totally agree, as much as it hurt to hear him talk about us in that way, the honesty was refreshing, my only issue with him was he kept standing right in front of me in the 2nd half and just looked at me with the “do you know who I am look” when I politely asked him to move.”

Another fan wrote: “Yeah as a fan listening to the same page from the media handbook gets old really quick. Rugby needs characters just being themselves, it’s so much more interesting when you see real people and I think the wider audience prefer it.”

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