News emerged today that France’s coaching team of Jean-Michel Gonzalez and Philippe Laurent have been dismissed – and the axe of new FFR President Bernard Laporte may yet fall elsewhere as well.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) have new president - Bernard Laporte – and the new broom has started to sweep.
As a result, good results are no longer enough, and the fact that a team is being prepared for a World Cup only eight months away (not to mention the Six Nations rather closer than that) is of little relevance. The purge had to begin somewhere, and it has started with Jean-Michel Gonzalez and Philippe Laurent. There are suggestions that they supported the wrong side and were too close to former President Pierre Camou, which may not have helped, or that Laporte had “heard bad things about them” during the campaign. It may also have simply been that, because they had no actual contract (the pair were only paid for their time while with the squad) it was easier to remove them. Whatever it was, L'Equipe revealed this morning that they have been asked to leave their posts.
During the day it has become apparent that the manner of their leaving was also somewhat blunt, especially for a coaching team that won the Six Nations at the start of the year, though to the FFR’s credit they were at least allowed to enjoy Christmas before the end came. The pair received a phone call on Boxing Day to tell them they were dismissed.The call came from Annick Hayraud, Laporte’s new head of women's rugby.***
***UPDATE: It now seems that they did not receive the phone call, but - as they had heard nothing from the FFR for a month since the election of Laporte - rang Hayraud themselves only to learn then that their services were no longer required
Hayraud was manager of the French women's team until 2014, and was elected to the FFR board of directors by being 29th on Bernard Laporte’s candidate list. Currently coach of the Romagnat in the Top 8, it has been said that she will reveal the identity of the new technical staff “soon”, which is good as the Six Nations squad is due to get together for training in early January.
Both of the former coaches were well advanced with their training structures and had developed an outsourced development scheme for international players whereby the FFR repays the salary to the employer of a player in the French team when training or playing. It was announced that the device would be kept in place, in view of the structural advances and positive results.
Despite that it has also been revealed that the knives cut deeper than the two headline coaches. Pretty much the entire staff, down to physical trainer Paul Abadie, have been removed.
Rumours are rife that the changes will not end here. The seven coaching team lead by David Courteix may be next in the firing line.