Departing Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has ruled out a return by former assistant Ronan O'Gara to replace him in next year's Super Rugby Pacific.
With six Super Rugby titles under his belt - and potentially another on the way - Robertson will step away from the Christchurch franchise to take the reins of the All Blacks after the Rugby World Cup in October/November.
His imminent departure leaves the Crusaders scrambling to find a new head coach, a challenge compounded by the fact Robertson has included former assistant Jason Ryan and current assistant Scott Hansen on his national team staff.
Defence coach Tamati Ellison has also ruled himself out, as he takes on his first head-coaching role with Wellington in the national provincial championship.
After two years serving under Robertson in 2018-19, O'Gara appeals as a popular solution to the Crusaders' problem - but his former mentor thinks the former Ireland international has priced himself out of contention.
"Not the money he's on," laughed Robertson. "He's paid plenty and the euro is strong at the moment too."
Before retiring in 2013, O'Gara, 46, became Ireland's most capped player with 128 appearances) and the fifth-highest scorer in international rugby.
The legendary first-five has carried that success into coaching. Since his stint with the Crusaders, he has guided French club La Rochelle to consecutive European Rugby Champions Cup victories, defending the crown against Leinster last week.
He also reunited with Robertson last year to guide the Barbarians to victory over an All Blacks XV and has been quick to credit his mate for his coaching achievements.
"Hugely proud of 'Rog'," said Robertson. "We're still really connected and talk quite regularly.
"I'm just proud of how he gets his players ready for finals footy - and they deliver under pressure.
"It's always nice to be praised like that, particularly from a personal point of view that you've left a mark on someone and helped them. When he first arrived to now, he's grown.
"That's the great thing about coaching - the camaraderie you have and when you see someone being successful and getting praise for it, saying you've helped them. It's a nice touch."
O'Gara is vocal in his desire to one day coach Ireland, which could put him in direct competition with Robertson on the international stage.
"That would be quite cool, in the context of it," said Robertson. "One thing about Ronan is he's ambitious.
"He'll go at it and enjoys the big stage. His teams do too, in the way he prepares them.
"He'd be set up beautifully for international rugby."
Join Newshub at 4:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Crusaders v NSW Waratahs Super Rugby Pacific clash2023-05-25T20:01:38Z dg43tfdfdgfd