Champions Cup – Ronan O’Gara (Stade Rochelais): “I respect the instinct of the players on the pitch but tonight, it didn’t work too well”

What do you remember from this defeat?

It was a pretty close match, but with a lot inaccuracies on our part. We are disappointed, but the best team won. I have to say congratulations to Leinster. We had opportunities to win, but that’s the high level. There are some good lessons to learn from our performance tonight, but maybe it will help us for the future.

La Rochelle against Leinster, I believe there is a new classic in European rugby.

You had opportunities. Is the failure to convert them due to a lack of lucidity?

Yes exactly. As I said, there was a lack of precision and lucidity, especially in terms of discipline. Will (Skelton)’s fault on Gibson Park, that’s not possible. It’s too easy with today’s conditions. Ditto for the little obstruction by Antoine (Hastoy) on Gibson-Park. These are mistakes which are costly at this level, and this was the case today. I am able to note five actions where we are less than five meters from the Leinster goal. But we don’t capitalize. Now it’s Leinster who leaves with a good victory. La Rochelle against Leinster, I believe there is a new classic in European rugby.

Is qualification compromised?

Yes of course. Now we have to recover well because we will play in completely different conditions on Saturday in Cape Town. It’s interesting for us because in the final phase the conditions are not like today. It’s not an excuse, but I think my team likes to play when the ball is dry. But we also need to have a game plan for winter. Gibson-Park controlled the match well and kept us under pressure with his kicking game.

Is this your best match of the season?

I have no idea, but it’s not difficult either (laughs). I think we had 30 minutes against Perpignan. There were good things, yes. There were two fierce teams in the contacts. Leinster have pride, and we won the last three games against them. They said : “Let’s stop, we’re tired of this!” They are the ones who win today, but it creates conditions for the next time, if there is a next time.

Pierre Bourgarit said that it is easier to be a champion when everything is going well. Now is the time to show if you have character?

I have no doubts about the character of the team. On the other hand, we need to train with perhaps a little more intensity, to create scenarios, to have more stress. And I prefer that mistakes happen in training and not to Marcel-Deflandre.

The next match arrives very quickly with a big trip (Stormers to Cape Town). Is your group for this meeting already clear?

We are going to have a meeting this evening because we are leaving tomorrow at 2 p.m. by bus to Bordeaux then by plane to Paris. Then we do Paris – Johannesburg and Johannesburg – Cape Town. It’s a bit complicated, but so far we haven’t used excuses. It’ll be 25 degrees there, it’s not going to be like today, we’ll bring the sunscreen (laughs).

This time, it wasn’t a final, but it still had the intensity.

Yes exactly. After the very good start to our second half, I thought it was Leinster who were going to collapse, but it was us who collapsed after 71 minutes. Perhaps we need to look at why we are kicking, why we are not taking the three points. But that is always a discussion with the leaders. I always said when I was 10 that we had to respect the instincts of the players on the pitch. But tonight, it didn’t work too well. That’s how sport is, we have to accept and refocus on something else.

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