Champions Cup double 'just the start' for O'Gara's La Rochelle

·2-min read
Ronan O'Gara won two Champions Cup titles as a player with Munster
Ronan O'Gara won two Champions Cup titles as a player with Munster

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara said on Saturday defending the Champions Cup title was "just the start" for his side.

The French outfit beat Leinster 27-26 in Dublin in a repeat of last season's decider to become the fifth club to retain the crown in the competition's 27 years history.

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La Rochelle trailed by 16 points at the break but Georges-Henri Colombe's 78th minute try claimed the victory over the four-time winners.

"I'm really proud of them. They found a solution," O'Gara told reporters.

"It's why we're in rugby. We're getting into the territory of being a special team but it's just the start," he added.

Leinster, playing in their home city in front of a sold-out Lansdowne Road, crossed for three tries, converting just one, within the opening quarter of an hour.

"We were on the ropes big time. We were being steamrolled," former Ireland fly-half O'Gara said.

"Within 11 minutes it's 17-0 so you're not a long way from getting hosed, which wasn't the plan coming here.

"The boys really care, they could have jumped ship but they dug in, they showed worldly resolve and are worthy champions," he added.

- 'No respect' -

La Rochelle captain No. 8 Gregory Alldritt was named player of the match but was left frustrated by opposing skipper James Ryan's attitude during the pre-match coin toss.

"He didn't look in my eyes when we shook hands," the newly crowned European player of the year said.

"He didn't respect me," Alldritt added.

Next up for the side from the Atlantic coast is hosting Stade Francais in the Top 14 next Sunday but their place in June's domestic semi-finals is already secured.

La Rochelle have lost in two semi-finals and a final in the French league since 2017.

"Out of respect for this competition I don't want to talk about that," O'Gara said.

"We haven't made a schedule, but I think party Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday then a captain's run.

"We'll talk about what we want to do this season," he added.

In less than four months, France will host New Zealand in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

Les Bleus, with Alldritt in the back-row, are favourites for the Webb Ellis trophy alongside Ireland, who had 18 representatives in Leinster's  Champions Cup final squad.

"It's a different competition, different preparation," Alldritt said.

"It's too early to speak about the World Cup," the 26-year-old said.