Leadership Coach & Former Irish Rugby Player
Ronan is an Irish former rugby union player and now coaches others in leadership
Photo Credit ©INPHO/Gary Carr
Ronan O’Gara has been at the heart of Munster and Irish rugby throughout his 16-year professional career. He is Ireland’s all-time leading points scorer, the Six Nations leading points scorer, and the most capped player in Heineken Cup history. He won 128 caps for Ireland, won three Triple Crowns, the Grand Slam in 2009, and played on three British and Irish Lions tours.
Since retiring from professional rugby in 2013 O’Gara has pursued a successful coaching career. He began his coaching career in France as Racing 92’s defence coach before moving to New Zealand in 2018 – becoming the assistant defence coach of the Crusaders and leading the club to win two Super Rugby titles.
O’Gara returned to France in 2019 to take up the post of head coach with La Rochelle. He became their Director of Rugby and in May 2022 made history once again when leading La Rochelle to win their first European Rugby Champions Cup – becoming the first person to win the Heineken Champions Cup both as a player and head coach.
O’Gara speaks with insight and honesty of his journey through the professional game from player to head coach. He reflects on his many successes and occasional lows with the ‘straight-talking attitude’ that has become his trademark.
As a coach O’Gara recognises that a fit and healthy body can only get his players so far if they do not also take care of their mental health. He has achieved success by leading his team – not only with integrity but also with compassion. O’Gara relies on honest communication and is candid about the things that went wrong as well as what succeeded – in order for his team to grow as a unit as well as individually.
O’Gara understands that the strongest player on the team can’t bring success on their own but instead it is the squad that works together which becomes a great team and is able to generate levels of adaptability, internal courage, trust, and empathy.
In any professional entity he believes “there are essentially three groups. The core group who believes in the project, a second group which doesn’t always play or feel involved, but ultimately sail or sink the vessel. And the third cohort, invariably disaffected by lack of game time or relationship with the manager, are disruptive and do everything they can to influence the middle tier in a negative way. Their glass is half empty on the way to empty. The key is to pull the middle group towards the doers and away from the moaners. You need that group, otherwise, it’s all uphill”.
Ronan O’Gara writes “When you get values and ambition aligning in the dressing room, you can move mountains. The old line resonates with me every day: ‘On your own you’ll go faster, but together we’ll go further.’ There is a lot of depth to that sentence.”