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Bernard Laporte's return to rugby starts on a bum note

By Ian Cameron
Montpellier's French sport director Bernard Laporte (R) looks on from the sidelines ahead of the French Top14 rugby union match between Montpellier Herault Rugby and Union Sportive Oyonnax Rugby at the GGL Stadium in Montpellier, southern France on November 25, 2023. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP) (Photo by SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Former France head coach and controversial figure Bernard Laporte’s return to the coaching scene as director of rugby at Montpellier has started with defeat.

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MHR went down 26-21 at home to a freshly promoted Oyonnax at the GGL Stadium in Round 8 of the Top 14.

The match was admittedly a closely contested affair, with Montpellier initially seizing the lead through a Sam Simmonds’ try in the 3rd minute and a Bastien Chalureau 5-pointer in the 23rd minute. However, Oyonnax were resilient, levelling the score at 14-14 by halftime, thanks to well-executed plays by Justin Bouraux and Daniel Ikpefan.

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Evan Roos on the advice he got from Eben Etzebeth

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Evan Roos on the advice he got from Eben Etzebeth

The second half saw Oyonnax taking control, with Maxime Salles and Farrell scoring crucial tries. Despite Montpellier’s late efforts, including a try by Paul Willemse, Oyonnax’s solid defence ultimately secured their 26-21 triumph.

Match Summary

0
Penalty Goals
0
3
Tries
4
3
Conversions
3
0
Drop Goals
0
161
Carries
101
4
Line Breaks
4
14
Turnovers Lost
8
4
Turnovers Won
9

The defeat marked Laporte’s first game as Montpellier’s director of rugby, adding a sombre note to his much-anticipated return to coaching. Montpellier, champions in 2022, now find themselves at the bottom of the table with seven consecutive defeats.

“We’re a team that is doubting itself, a bit confused,” Laporte acknowledged in a post-match interview with Canal+. “Now the objective is simple, we’re playing for safety. Everyone has to commit, think only of that, when they wake up in the morning, when they shave, when they go to sleep.”

The disappointing result puts Laporte and Montpellier in a challenging position, with survival in the Top 14 now their primary focus.

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Laporte self-suspended as World Rugby vice-chairman in 2022, within hours of a Paris court finding him guilty of passive corruption, influence peddling, illegal interest taking and misuse of corporate assets.

He was banned from holding any position in rugby for two years but his lawyer Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi appealed the ruling.

The scandal involved Laporte’s relationship with Mohed Altrad, the billionaire businessman who owns French champions Montpellier.

additional reporting AAP/PA

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