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What Ronan O'Gara feels about pecking order to succeed Eddie Jones

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ronan O’Gara has admitted he has spoken to a few people about the possibility of succeeding Eddie Jones as England coach. Jones is set to leave the job at the end of next year’s World Cup in France and the race to succeed him is already underway with Leicester’s Steve Borthwick, Crusaders’ Scott Robertson and La Rochelle’s O’Gara all mentioned as being in the running.

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It was March this year, following another disappointing Guinness Six Nations campaign, when RFU chief Bill Sweeney suggested that an English candidate would be the overwhelming preference to replace Jones when his contract expired.

“We believe we have got such a wealth of English coaches in the game. As a leading rugby nation we should be developing English coaches and an English style of play,” said Sweeney at the time. “That should be long-term and therefore the preference would be to have an English set-up, as far as I’m concerned.”

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That suggested job spec, though, didn’t prevent the likes of Robertson, a New Zealander, and O’Gara, an Irishman, from being actively linked to the England post. Both have spoken about their desire to coach at Test level and Sweeney has since rowed back on his must-be-English stance. “If it was an English person it makes life a bit easier,” he said the other week. “The first priority is it’s got to be the right person, if they are English then that’s great.”

The RFU hope to have a successor announcement made by May 2023 and it was curious that Sweeney’s latest update arrived at a time when Robertson and O’Gara were working together co-coaching the Barbarians to their victory earlier this month at Tottenham over an All Blacks XV.

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The London Times have now claimed there is an RFU shortlist of three to succeed Jones – Borthwick, Robertson and O’Gara – and the La Rochelle coach has responded to this latest speculation, telling Irish media at a menswear promotion: “Well I don’t know about a shortlist, but I have spoken to a few people. I suppose it’s a possibility but I don’t know where I am in the pecking order.”

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O’Gara is currently assessing how to deal with the ten-week match day ban and fine he received from Top 14 officials on Wednesday following his latest run-in with French referees. As it stands, his second ban of the 2022/23 season will keep him away from the sidelines until the end of January, by which time he hopes to know whether he has extended his current La Rochelle contract beyond the summer of 2024 or is leaving.

“You want to probably have a very, very good reason to leave. I don’t have that. I’m obviously in decision mode between now and Christmas because that is what happens with coaches. They always want to be done six months before the last year of contracts. That would be next season, I would be in my last year of my contract here, so I have to decide if I want to stick to club rugby or if there are options to go to the Test game.”

Regarding his latest ban, he added: “I’ll meet the (club) president on Friday and we will decide then. When we know what the club and I are doing we will be in a position to talk about it. It’s already wasted a lot of my time preparing for Wednesday’s hearing. I don’t want to jeopardise anything.”

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