Disappointed O’Gara will consult La Rochelle president over latest ban

Ronan O’Gara will not let his new 10-week French rugby match-day suspension affect his decision-making process following approaches from the RFU about the England job.

The former Munster and Ireland legend was tight-lipped yesterday about the suspension he picked up from Top 14 bosses, his second match-day ban this season, which will keep him away from his duties as La Rochelle boss until January 30. He said the process was still live, suggesting he and his club, the defending Heineken Champions Cup titleholders, may appeal the punishment handed out by a special commission comprised of officials from the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR).

The commission heard the case on Wednesday relating to remarks the Irishman made relating to the standard and consistency of refereeing in the Top 14 to leading French referees official Franck Maciello.

The suspension comes at a time when Irish Examiner columnist O’Gara is in discussion with La Rochelle over a contract extension to his current deal which runs until 2024 but also at a point where the former fly-half has been linked with succeeding England boss Eddie Jones, who is due to step down at the end of the 2023 World Cup.

The Times of London this week reported that O’Gara was on a shortlist of three alongside Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson and Leicester Tigers’ Steve Borthwick for the job and he yesterday repeated his stand that he was attracted to a role he described as “exciting ”, although he added: “Well I don’t know about a shortlist, but I’ve spoken to a few people. I suppose it’s a possibility but I don’t know where I am in the pecking order.”

O’Gara, speaking as an ambassador for Benetti Menswear, said: “To be honest with you I’m the first year into head coach at La Rochelle and obviously winning a European Cup final, that’s the stuff of dreams. But you want to probably have a very, very good reason to leave. I don’t have that.

“I am obviously in decision mode between now and Christmas because that’s 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.”

While O’Gara admitted he was “hugely disappointed” by his punishment this week he refused to discuss the case and whether he will appeal.

“I’ll meet the (club) president tomorrow and we’ll decide then. When we know what the club and I are doing we’ll be in a position to talk about it. It’s already wasted a lot of my time preparing for yesterday’s hearing. I don’t want to jeopardise anything.”

He did speak about how disruptive his ban earlier this season had been.

“Yeah, very. Honestly, the bulk of my work is Monday to Friday. On game day, there’s a role for the head coach in terms of… I’m not a director of rugby in the fact that, that’s part of the job, recruitment and all that but my strength is on the grass.

“With that you have a warm-up which I run and of course you can empower your assistant coaches to do that but I think what’s evident now is that sometimes, and I remember as a player, that is the time when players are at their most vulnerable and maybe a comforting word or maybe the habits are routine that we’ve established to keep them concentrated or on guard, or a little bit of an ‘up your game’, potentially reading the situation.

“So it’s all about those little small things that become big things when you appreciate sport at the highest level. So it does have an impact and I was aware of that obviously in my last ban but unfortunately, this has unearthed from a Toulouse game (on October 23).

“The Brive game was my first game in the clear, shall we say, and my behavior was impeccable but it’s gone back. It’s a pre-dated game which it relates to.”

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