“Leinster remains special to me”

"Leinster remains special to me"

May 22, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.

At the end of this season, Ronan Ogara’s agenda is out of breath. The 45-year-old Irish head coach, who qualified for the European Cup final with La Rochelle, is still in the running for the top 14 after Saturday’s victory (32-13) against Stade Frances. In his office on Tuesday to evoke his European memories. Having won as a player with Munster in 2006 and 2008, after being a finalist in 2000 and 2002, Marseille will experience its third Continental Summit on Saturday in a coaching role (2016 racing 92, along with La Rochelle 2021). After all, he will find his best enemy: Leinster.

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What was your first memory of the European Cup?
In 1997. I was 20 years old and it was a match against Munster in Harlequins. In front of me, there was a French opening half: Thierry Lacroix. This team had a lot of players, a lot of English international players, and it was very strong. We lost and had a lot of points [48-40]. In Munster, the European Cup was like a Brennan Shield for the French: it was our match and everyone wanted to win at the start of the season.

Then it took you a while to get there …
Yes, I lost the first two finals [2000 et 2002]. It is difficult and takes time to succeed. Finally, I do not have to say it too loudly: my players lost in the top 14 finals last season and the European Cup in a matter of weeks. [contre le Stade toulousain]No matter, I keep telling them they will win next time! The successes of 2006 and 2008 were unforgettable. The first was against Bearits at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where there was an incredible atmosphere. At the end of the match, they were shown pictures of Dublin’s main street on the stadium’s giant screen: I do not know how many thousands of people were there, and it’s a lifetime of carving.

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In 2006, you defeated your rival province of Leinster in the semi-finals on Lansdowne Road. Did it taste even better?
We won 30-6 against them and I had a chance to score 20 points. Inevitably, it was a great memory. That’s it! This is the most stressful place in my life. The whole of Ireland was waiting for this shock.You have no right to lose it when you are a player. In the morning, I was able to laugh, joke and keep calm. I was shocked when I arrived at the stadium. That’s what I’m trying to convey to my players today.

Three years later, in the semi – finals, Leinster retaliated at Croke Park.
This is the true beginning of Leinster Province, reaching its highest level since winning the title that year. In front of us, opener Philip Contepomic was injured and Jonathan Sexton returned. He has not left the team since.

Munster-Leinster is similar to Barcelona-Real Madrid or OM-PSG

In your mind, are you going to play in the final next Saturday like a former Munster player?
If I motivate myself like that, it would be a huge mistake. But I can not forget that Munster is the place where I have spent my entire playing career. Munster-Leinster is like Barcelona-Real Madrid or OM-PSG: a great match you want to play. I do not think I’m from this final monster, but it’s still special to me …

After losing two finals last season, are you afraid of not getting up?
It is important to get there immediately to show that the club is still there and that it is moving forward. People do not understand how violent it is to lose two finals. This is two big blows. Even if you are strong in your head, it is difficult. You need to be able to get out of it and build another project.

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Are you proud of having a record of 110 points (1,365) and matches played in the European Cup?
My kids showed them to me! It confirmed an impression I already had. Rugby has changed except for one point: the first half often leads the team to victory. In the case of finals with very few points, a penalty must be imposed. In 2000, we lost 9-8 to Northampton. Paul Grayson received three penalties, Ronan Ogara zeroed one and a miscon conversion …

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