La Rochelle just avoid wiping out half their pack in extremely high risk tactic
If anyone wants any evidence that Ronan O’Gara is a born leader and motivator, look no further than the fact that he was somehow able to persuade the La Rochelle forwards to lift Will Skelton in the lineout against Saracens on Sunday in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final victory.
Whether it was the Irishman or a silver tongued member of his coaching team, they got their team to lift all 145kg of the Australian lock at the Stade Marcel Deflandre. Then again, it probably requires all 145kg of Uini Atonio and 110kg of his fellow prop Reda Wardi to do so.
It is always funny when an unfamiliar player gets lifted at a lineout. A centre or maybe a scrum-half may go up, and it brings great enjoyment to all looking at the terror on the faces when they wonder if they will ever return to Earth again. But it is downright dangerous when Skelton does it.
Despite actually being a lock, the 30-year-old simply does not go up, so much so that he does not even tape his legs. So it certainly caught Saracens off-guard in their encounter, and the sheer bemusement may have actually led to Maro Itoje conceded a penalty.
But this could have easily resulted in the arms of Atonio and Wardi completely detaching from their torsos while attempting to lift Skelton. The lock himself was in outrageous danger as well, not to mention Thomas Lavault who, stood behind the pod, was probably left wondering whether he was about to be crushed by the Wallaby.
Take a look:
Nobody expects the Will Skelton jump😄#SRSHA pic.twitter.com/3QiLeJfw1a
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) April 9, 2023
Fortunately for the La Rochelle players, they all survived this incident and helped their side progress to the semi-finals, where they will take on Exeter Chiefs.
Head coach Ronan O’Gara said after the victory: “It was a great performance because we never gave in mentally. Saracens have a great mindset founded on doggedness, respect and humility and we knew we would be tested.
“We couldn’t put them away but we had enough in the bank to keep them at arm’s length. The game is based on fine margins, and we are aware of that, and what was really pleasing was we didn’t give them any scores.
“Most of the game they were on three points and then they got a try that Andrew Brace saw, and it took confirmation from the TMO that it was a scorer.
“We’re very happy, it’s a special place. It’s very important for me as a coach to connect with the boys. They are a very caring group, they like it here and they represent the town well.”