Intrigue ahead of final as O'Gara and Sexton are rivals once more

Intrigue ahead of final as O'Gara and Sexton are rivals once more

Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final has no shortage of individual contests, but one if the most intriguing is the somewhat unorthodox one between Leinster flyhalf and captain Johnny Sexton and La Rochelle boss Ronan O’Gara. 


Theirs is an interesting story which starts on the field of play as the pair cultivated a fierce rivalry – O'Gara in the red of Munster and Sexton representing Leinster – both vying for possession of the Ireland number 10 jersey. 


From there, O’Gara took on the defensive coaching duties at Racing 92 where the relationship grew, taking on a mentor/student quality as Sexton turned out for the Top 14 giants from 2013 to 2015. 


Now, once again they find themselves on opposing sides in the crescendo of European competition. 


Ahead of the encounter, O’Gara has voiced nothing but admiration for his old rival and international teammate. 


 “I don’t have an hour, genuinely, to explain what he’s good at,” O’Gara said. 


"When you come out of your playing days, you see the game a little bit differently, you see the importance of relationships, you see the importance of enjoying the journey. 


“A lot of people I enjoyed it with aren’t around anymore, they passed away unfortunately, so you’ve got to be reminded we’re in a great place, you’ve got to be able to enjoy tomorrow. I’ve experienced every emotion with Johnny and I respect him a lot. I enjoy his mindset, and I enjoy how he goes about his business. 


“I think he’s happier that his hotel wasn’t near mine because he wasn’t too keen on the coffee. It is easier when you don’t have to… I can drink coke tomorrow or drink water, the boys have got to suffer, on both teams. 


“They’ve got to prepare mentally, and, yeah, I’ve got to prepare mentally as the coach, that’s for certain, but he’s going to be 37 in July and that’s some achievement to be playing the way he is at the minute. We need to get stuck into him. That’s the biggest compliment I can give him because I think they play differently when he’s on the pitch.” 


Sexton was equally complimentary when asked to comment on O’Gara. 


“He’s done a fantastic job with them [La Rochelle],” said Sexton. “Fair play to him, getting to three finals in a row, that's a great achievement with a team that historically wasn't a powerhouse in France but someone like Jono Gibbes needs to take huge credit for that as well, for the work that he's done over the last couple of years. We know him well obviously.”   



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