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Bernard Jackman revisits the infamous Grenoble dessert debacle

By Stefan Frost
Former Grenoble head coach Bernard Jackman has been appointed as head coach of Newport Gwent Dragons (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

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Bernard Jackman gave listeners of Le French Rugby Podcast food for thought when recounting the dessert drama which took place during his tenure in Grenoble.


The French press would claim that the now infamous 2016 row over the desserts would lay the foundation for his eventual exit from the side in 2017, such was the significance of le dessert to the French side.

The Irishman worked for the Grenoble between 2011 and 2017, joining as an assistant before later becoming the head coach. Grenoble won promotion to the Top-14 not long after Jackman’s arrival but eventually succumbed to relegation in 2017.

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Fighting against relegation was one of the many challenges he faced with the club, but the most bizarre dilemma came off the field.

“The desserts in France are beautiful,” Jackman admitted. “We’d have them at dinner and the ones that were left over would come out with breakfast. Some of the boys would have their café and a little tart at breakfast. And then at lunchtime there were more desserts too.

The temptation of eating French desserts became a sticking point for Jackman when the Grenoble squad returned from pre-season in poor physical shape.

“We went on a training camp before our fourth year in the Top-14, so everybody was getting really comfortable,” he said. “Some of the boys got back and their body compositions were ridiculously bad. Now I was always in fat club myself so I’m not saying I was a saint but I used to get out of that club at some stage.


“We were getting them up at six o’clock in the morning to give them extra cardio and then they’re having chocolate cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Unhappy with the sweet treats on offer, Jackman decided to take action, pulling aside the team doctor to vent his anger. What he found was an unwillingness across the board for Frenchmen to relinquish their puddings.

“I went to the team doctor, who had more power than the head of strength and conditioning over there in Grenoble, and asked him what was going on and he said: “they’re training so hard, they need it for their mind.” I just said to him that half these lads are in fat club.”

Unwillingly, the team doctor acted on Jackman’s calls and spoke to some of the players. The reaction was not positive, with hooker Arnaud Héguy complaining that coaches should not get involved in nutrition and dieting.


Change did come though, with all parties eventually agreeing desserts would only be eaten at dinnertime. Inevitably this story made its way into the mainstream media and Jackman believes a few untruths were told along the way.

“It became that I was trying to ban desserts, which I never did. I like desserts.”

After leaving Grenoble, Jackman joined the Dragons for a season and is now the head coach of Bective Rangers FC who play in the Leinster Branch in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Héguy has become the Grenoble forwards coach at a time when the side is flirting with relegation from the French second division.

“It’s a tough first big coaching gig for Arnaud because they’re down the bottom of the table,” Jackman admitted. “Hopefully they can survive. When a club starts to slip like that, relegation can kill a club.”


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