O'Gara to coach French club La Rochelle

French club La Rochelle have signed Ronan O'Gara as their head coach, ending two successful seasons with Super Rugby powerhouses the Crusaders.

coach scott robertson of the crusaders looks on prior to the super rugby match between the crusaders and the chiefs at ami stadium in christchurch new zealand
Coach SCOTT ROBERTSON of the Crusaders looks on prior to the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Ronan O'Gara will return to coach in French club rugby after a successful two-season assistant tenure at the Crusaders, ending speculation he could take up a role with the All Blacks.

The former Irish five-eighth great has been appointed head coach of La Rochelle, assuming the post at the end of the Super Rugby season.

O'Gara has been an unmitigated success as attack coach at the Crusaders, helping steer them to a title last year and to the top qualifying spot for this year's finals.

He has overseen the development of several of New Zealand's most promising backs.

The prospect was raised of Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson and O'Gara taking charge of the All Blacks next year after Steve Hansen has stood aside - something the Irishman didn't quash in February.

However, he is returning to France, where he spent four seasons as defence coach of Paris outfit Racing 92.

The 42-year-old said he won't rule out a return to New Zealand.

"This is one of the best rugby clubs in the world, and it certainly wasn't an easy decision to move on from this team and their high-performance environment," he said.

"While I see this move to La Rochelle as the next step in my coaching career and an exciting opportunity for my young family, I'd like to think, long-term, this is not necessarily the end of my time with the Crusaders."

O'Gara is a three-time British and Irish Lions tourist whose 128-Test Ireland career ended in 2013, having tallied 1083 points.