| 5.5°C Dublin

Vac away Ronan O'Gara says French 'don't do vaccines' as he settles in to La Rochelle

I work with a lot of French people on the staff here [La Rochelle rugby club] and even when the doctors came around for the flu vaccine and offered it up to everyone in the club, all the foreigners, like me, stuck their hand up and got it. But one of 30 French staff got it."

Close

Ball Boy: O'Gara dreamt of playing for Ireland from the age of 6

Ball Boy: O'Gara dreamt of playing for Ireland from the age of 6

Ronan is part of this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub

Ronan is part of this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub

/

Ball Boy: O'Gara dreamt of playing for Ireland from the age of 6

IRISH rugby legend Ronan O’Gara has settled in as head coach at La Rochelle rugby club in France — but admitted there are some things he can’t get his head around.

It’s not the food or the customs that have him stumped — it’s the French stubbornness towards vaccines.

“It’s crazy over here,” he smiles ironically.

“I work with a lot of French people on the staff here [La Rochelle rugby club] and even when the doctors came around for the flu vaccine and offered it up to everyone in the club, all the foreigners, like me, stuck their hand up and got it. But one of 30 French staff got it.

“It’s in their history for some reason. They don’t do vaccines. It’s crazy. But it’s their choice. I think it is part of the whole ‘pays de liberté’ which gives them the freedom of choice. They fully believe that they live in a very open society where you ‘can’t ringfence us in to do this and that. If you try, we won’t do it’,” he smiles and shrugs.

So how about mask wearing and hand sanitising? “Oh, that’s completely different. They are huge into that. Even in the club behind closed doors there is an incredible amount of hand sanitising going on and you wouldn’t dare walk around without a mask on.”

The record-smashing rugby star did admit that it seems to be just vaccines that the French people seem to be resistant to.

“They are very compliant with the rules. We aren’t in lockdown like at home in Ireland, but we are all under curfew. We currently have to be home by 6pm. It was 8pm up until recently. Schools are open so we have some normality but then we all head home and don’t go outside from 6pm onwards. The alternative is full lockdown, so we are happy with that.

“If you asked one of them to come over for dinner to talk about a match they would flat out refuse because they are breaking the curfew.

“I talk to my parents at home every day so I know what’s going on there. Obviously, Ireland didn’t handle it well at Christmas time at all and are paying the price for it now but in France it’s been pretty impressive for a long period of time now.”

The Munster man has been asked by Aviva to take part in their Mini Rugby Skills Hub, which will take place all this week, to help give kids a chance to harness their love of sport and improve some of the basics.

Close

Ronan is part of this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub

Ronan is part of this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub

Ronan is part of this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub

Aviva also published results of some in depth research this week showing one in four kids dream about playing for their country.

So was Ronan one of those kids in the ’80s? “I most definitely was a dreamer. I used to sleep with my rugby ball. I started playing at the age of six and all I ever wanted was to play at Lansdowne Road and for Ireland.

“I was a decent footballer and I played GAA for Bishopstown. I was mad into all sports; I played for Cork under 10s and 12s; I even have a Féile medal. But as soon as I went to a rugby school that became my focus.

“This is a virtual skills hub. What we won’t be doing this week is drilling people for skills. We want to set up a structure that they can use for any sport and maybe if the weather is good it will get them off the couch and give their parents a break from home-schooling. It is simple to follow.

“The hardest bit of exercise is thinking about doing it. But 10 minutes in you never regret it. We would much prefer to sit at home having a cup of Barry’s tea and the Dairy Milk on the couch. You love it but then you get pissed off with yourself and it goes on to the next night. You’ve just got to break that.

“What is not up for debate is that you will feel better from exercise. All scientific evidence states that. So, with the extra challenges we are all facing now [lockdown], it’s too hard to stay at the one beat all day.”

So how about his own kids, twins Rua and Molly (12), JJ (10), Zach, (8) and Max (6), are they dreamers like he was?

“I don’t know, to be honest. I don’t ask them. I judge them on how happy they are. I don’t have a high-performance house. It’s hard enough with five of them and two dogs, so we live in the now at the moment. And don’t worry too much about the long-term future.

“Getting them up to bed and asleep is a two-hour routine. And there is no military precision about it. To be fair to my wife Jess she does most of it. I can’t even pretend to take the credit for it,” he laughs.

“One of the great things about Covid is I’m home all the time. There’s no travel, the hotels are gone out of my life. It’s been the big positive of all this. I got a chance to reassess and stop chasing everything.”

He continues about the games and his players: “It’s terrible. You can’t even spend time with the players after a game any more. My team played against Simon Zebo last weekend and I couldn’t even go for a glass of wine with him.

“The good thing about sport, in particular rugby, is you aim to do a job on them on the pitch for 80 minutes and afterwards you go and have a beer with them and a chat.

“Game days are horrible nowadays. Players play, there’s no atmosphere in the grounds, they don’t get any sort of compliments, they get no encouragement from their teammates. You play, go into the dressing room, shower and change.

“You then mask up and get on a bus for six hours before going home.

“You wonder how sustainable it all is sometimes. But we are very lucky that we can still operate with some normality during the week. The show hasn’t stopped so we know we are lucky.”

To take part in the this week's Aviva Mini Rugby Virtual Skills Hub and to be in with a chance to win prizes for your family or kits for your club, and receive discounts on your car and home insurance, families and clubs across Ireland are invited to sign up at aviva.ie/safetodreamteam.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Top Videos





Privacy