After almost a decade in the doldrums, there is now sustained evidence to suggest France are well and truly back at rugby’s top table. Les Bleus are heading to Dublin this weekend, intent on putting Ireland’s Six Nations hopes firmly to bed, and to propel their own in the process.
“The mentality has changed,” O’Gara said. “It was unbelievable to think when I was coaching at Racing that you had some guys you’d hear that weren’t interested in going to the French camp. That’s very, very strange. Now it’s the complete opposite. Now it’s different – they’d run the 200km from La Rochelle to get to French camp!”
“There’s still huge interest in the club game, but I think now there’s a nice bit of pride seeping back into their national team,” he added. “Bizarrely, the World Cup probably did that for them, and then they imploded against Wales [in the quarter-final], Vahaamahina with the discipline issue. But I think they won a lot of hearts back in that tournament. Then obviously the performance with their second team in Twickenham has them up for this Six Nations.”