Belfast Telegraph

Defensive guru O'Gara says Racing stand united

By Jonathan Bradley

During good times and bad with Munster, Ronan O'Gara saw it all in Europe during his time as a player and today he aims to add the first medal of his coaching career.

A winner of the Heineken Cup with his native province in 2006 and 2008, O'Gara is the mastermind behind a Racing 92 defence thought to be one of the best in the northern hemisphere this season and will be out to hold to Mark McCall's Saracens at bay in this afternoon's Champions Cup final.

After a couple campaigns of rumoured disharmony in the French capital, the Irish legend sees the squad's budding togetherness as the key to their rise.

"One of our big strengths this year is how united we are," he said ahead of the Parisians' first European final.

"Our values now are a lot better than they were 12 months ago, and people are putting it in for each other.

"We've installed a different culture and identity, because there's no recent history of winning anything at this club apart from a Pro D2.

"Now I feel there is a grip on the club which means the club can do something.

"Previously it wasn't possible because of the standards, but we have something very good building."

While O'Gara's own days in the 10 jersey are done, his side will field All Black legend Dan Carter at out-half in Lyon with the World Cup winner looking to cap a fine season in style.

"It is obviously the pinnacle of European rugby, and a big part of the reason why I wanted to come here," he said.

"To reach this stage is a hugely proud moment for me, and more importantly, for this team.

"We haven't won anything yet. We are up against a very good Saracens side. We've done well to get here, but the hard work starts now.

"It has been a pretty special 12-14 months with some of the things I've achieved. I am just lucky to be a part of a couple of pretty special teams. Obviously, the All Blacks and what they've achieved, and to be involved now with Racing."

Completing the triumvirate of pretty special out-halfs is Saracens' own talisman, Owen Farrell.

However, he has played down the hype surrounding his contest with Carter..

"There is no doubt he is a brilliant player," Farrell added.

"I am sure that any fly-half would look up to him, but it is not about a fly-half versus a fly-half tomorrow, it is about two good teams playing for the trophy.

"It's about the collective effort from both teams, and who comes out on top there."

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