Racing v Saracens in Champions Cup final: Parisians united - O'Gara
|European Rugby Champions Cup final: Racing 92 v Saracens|
|Venue: Grand Stade de Lyon Date: Saturday 14 May Kick-off: 16:45 BST|
|Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website|
Racing 92 assistant coach Ronan O'Gara believes a transformation in the club's "culture and identity" has taken them to the brink of Champions Cup glory.
Racing meet Saracens in the final in Lyon on Saturday, with both clubs bidding to win Europe's premier club competition for the first time.
"One of our big strengths this year is how united we are," said O'Gara.
"Our values now are a lot better than they were 12 months ago, and people are putting it in for each other."
The Parisians have a multinational squad, including All Black great Dan Carter, but last won the French title in 1990.
They struggled after the arrival of professionalism but, under the ownership of real estate magnate Jacky Lorenzetti, they have re-established themselves among the leading clubs in France.
"We've installed a different culture and identity, because there's no [recent] history of winning anything at this club apart from a [second division] Pro D2," the Irishman, speaking to BBC 5 live, added.
"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."
Bolstered by the deep pockets of Lorenzetti, Racing have spent heavily in the past few years.
Carter, the most expensive player in the world, and Welsh duo Mike Phillips and Luke Charteris are part of a squad packed with internationals. Some might be nearing the end of their careers - but O'Gara insists the new arrivals are motivated by success on the pitch.
"People coming from all different corners of the world doesn't mean they are money-grabbing people," the former Munster, Ireland and Lions fly-half said.
"I could tell you how motivated these guys are, and what playing for this club means to them, and you would be shocked.
"Twenty-four months ago I would agree with the perception that it's easy to pick up a cheque in France and it's easy to make a great living, but once you're a winner I think it doesn't leave you, and we have plenty of winners in our group."
No one embodies this winning mentality more than Carter, who is one victory away from lifting the Champions Cup, a matter of months after guiding New Zealand to back-to-back Rugby World Cups.
"He's fascinating," O'Gara said. "Extremely humble and extremely respectful. He always finds a way of getting the job done, and he doesn't do stress.
"He's very polite - a breath of fresh air - and you can learn an awful lot just from watching him."
Carter's fly-half head-to-head with Saracens' Owen Farrell could be decisive on the weekend, with O'Gara describing the Englishman as "the most improved player in Britain and Ireland over the last six months".
"He's a big threat now," O'Gara said. "Saracens play for each other, and that's the most important thing. You look at [wing] Chris Ashton - it's incredible to think he is surplus to requirements at Test level."
Despite his relative inexperience as a coach, O'Gara has the responsibility of being second-in-command to joint head coaches Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit at Racing.
The 39-year-old recently extended his stay in Paris until 2019, a clear sign of how much he and his family are enjoying the experiences of the French capital.
"It's only until you leave your own home and comfort zone you realise what is out there," O'Gara admitted.
And while O'Gara is widely tipped to eventually return to coach in Ireland, he says he is focused on Racing for the foreseeable future.
"I'm not thinking about anything bar here. I have my hands full but I love it."
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