23 Nov 2017

Ireland legend to join Crusaders as backs coach

6:38 am on 23 November 2017

Former Ireland first five Ronan O'Gara is to take up a coaching role with the Crusaders.

Ronan O'Gara has been an assistant coach at Racing 92 since 2013.

Ronan O'Gara has been an assistant coach at Racing 92 since 2013. Photo: Photosport

O'Gara has been granted an early release from his contract with French club Racing 92 to become the backs coach for the Super Rugby champions, replacing Leon MacDonald.

O'Gara, who joined Racing as an assistant coach in July 2013, will begin his new role in New Zealand in the new year.

Statements released by the Crusaders and Racing confirmed O'Gara would be released at the end of December.

The 40-year-old's contract had been due to run until 2019.

"New Zealand sets the bar in world rugby, and Super Rugby is recognized as one of the toughest international rugby tournaments," O'Gara said.

"So to coach in New Zealand - for the current Super Rugby champions - is an inticing prospect for any coach. I cannot wait to join Scott Robertson, Brad Mooar and Jason Ryan in the BNZ Crusaders coaching group and to work with the outstanding group of players we have.

"I have a lot of respect for Scott Robertson, having played against him in two All Blacks v Ireland tests in 2002, and then following his coaching success since.

"I am sure I can learn a lot from him and the other coaches, management and players at the Crusaders and I hope that I can also make a worthy contribution to the group by bringing my own personal experience and flavour to the team."

O'Gara also added his gratitude to racing for granting him the early release.

Ronan O'Gara played 128 games for Ireland.

Ronan O'Gara played 128 games for Ireland. Photo: Photosport

Crusaders boss Hamish Riach said O'Gara had proved himself as an outstanding coach and was the right fit for the job, while coach Robertson agreed he O'Gara's skills and experience would complement the current coaching group.

"We are lucky to have the continuity of Brad and Jason in their roles, while Ronan will bring his fresh perspective and new ideas, which is always welcomed.

"With our coaching group and playing squad now complete, I can't wait to get this 2018 season underway."

Before leaving France, O'Gara will help prepare Racing for a vital home-and-away double-header against Castres.

Ireland's all-time leading points scorer, Ogara, played for his country from 2000-2013 and is the sixth most capped international player in the world.

As well as 128 games for Ireland, he has played for the British and Irish Lions in their 2001, 2005 and 2009 tours and has also captained Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.