There is a new man in charge of France; with the French Rugby Federation officially announcing the hiring of Jacques Brunel as their new Head Coach, replacing the outgoing Guy Novès after two years in charge.
Brunel (63) has worked previously under FRF President Bernard Laporte as an assistant, during Laporte’s tenure as France Head Coach. The experienced Frenchman leaves Bordeaux-Begles where he had been overseeing the Top 14’s club’s forwards.
France Hire Jacques Brunel
After France’s disastrous Autumn many mooted a potential move away from Novès. His much-maligned spell in charge had seen France win just a third of their games, the former Toulouse man’s inability to get the best out of a talented squad leaving the FRF with a decision to make on his future. Sub-par performances had become all too regular, and Novès had failed to instill an attractive brand of rugby that many French fans still clamour for.
While some felt he deserved greater run, the rapidly approaching World Cup loomed large, and it was high time for a change. Indeed, the disharmonious mutterings of French professionals had began to emerge in the Parisian papers, with some suggesting they would prefer not to be picked over inclusion in Guy Novès’ squad.
Jaques Brunel’s Coaching History and Possible Assistants
Brunel is a choice seemingly for the short-term rather than the future. Best known for his time in charge of Italy (2011-2016), he is vastly experienced with a coaching career stretching back to the late eighties. His period with the Azzurri was on the whole unsuccessful; a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2015 particularly so.
Brunel did notch commendable wins against Ireland and France in the 2013 Six Nations, and French rugby fans can take solace in the fact that the aforementioned period under Laporte was a particularly successful one. Most will hope Brunel can capture some of the ‘old magic’.
With Brunel’s apparent incoming all-but-confirmed, the rumour mill began to swirl last week about potential assistants to join him, with Novès’ lieutenants Yannick Bru and Jean-Frederic Dubois also leaving. Patrice Collazo and Franck Azema have turned La Rochelle and Clermont Auvergne into European contenders, but both have publicly confirmed they will not be involved–despite being linked with roles. Each choosing instead to concentrate on their club efforts.
Fabien Galthié (in his first year as Toulon Head Coach) has been another hotly-tipped name for a role with the backs, and it is now believed Julian Bonnaire (capped 75 times by France) and Lyon forwards coach Sebastien Bruno will share the running of the forwards. Laporte, speaking at a press conference only days ago, said that “Brunel will decide his own staff”. Insisting no decision had yet been made on the matter.
Skeletons in the Closet?
In typically French style, the press conference took a controversial turn before it had even begun, with sports staple L’Equipe not invited to the event confirming Brunel’s appointment.
The daily newspaper is among France’s largest publications, but were blacklisted due to their investigations into the dealings between Laporte and Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad. It is ‘suggested’ Laporte influenced a federation committee to reduce sanctions placed on Altrad, lowering a severe fine dramatically and lifting a stadium ban. If found guilty, one suspects there may be another opening in French rugby as Laporte will surely be ousted as head of the FRF.
If anything, while France hire Jacques Brunel to return the national team to glory days of old, the leadership itself are being questioned. Unfortunate, as the hosting of the 2023 Rugby World Cup should have been a high-point for the FFR. Yet the backroom lobbying and Laporte’s role may overshadow both the RWC process.
Hopefully Brunel brings a new vigour to the field of play. That is of course, where the focus must always be.
France play Ireland in the opening match of the 2018 Six Nations, on February 3, at Stade de France in Paris.
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