Incredible scenes as tens of thousands show up to celebrate title win

Watch: La Rochelle fans out in force for European Champions

French rugby is flying right now. And one of the hallmarks of how special the game is there is how communities embrace rugby – look at these scenes from La Rochelle. In a city with a population fewer than 80,000, between 20- and 35,000 residents showed up to celebrate La Rochelle winning the European Champions Cup.

After their 24-21 victory over Leinster in the Marseille final, Les Maritimes boss Ronan O’Gara joked: “it will be carnage in the port of La Rochelle for the next few days after this!”

And he was bang on. Just take a look at this.

The passion is clear to see. And after the game, O’Gara gave another little insight into just why the fans deserve this moment.

“I couldn’t recommend the place highly enough for holidays, a break. Come to La Rochelle, they are decent people, this will mean a lot to the supporters. It’s a club, can you believe, that had never won silverware. We will go home with the Champions Cup. It’s a special day, a special story. It really is. I’m buzzing. I’m not showing it but I am very, very, very proud of them.”

Rugby fans around the world are also celebrating the efforts of La Rochelle. The European win represents a fairytale moment for a community club supported by local businesses, who were promoted from the Pro D2 in 2014 and who learnt from the Champions Cup final loss last year, against Toulouse, to go one better this season. Add onto that their passionate fanbase and it’s fun stuff.

The other element is the work from O’Gara. The coach’s stock is incredibly high, now. The former Munster, Ireland and Lions ten has put in the time – as an assistant coach he won a Top 14 title with Racing, and two super rugby titles with the Crusaders. He was head coach of La Rochelle last year, and now as Director of Rugby he has won the Heineken Cup.

What a moment.

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