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Confirmed: Gustard for Stade along with 8 players including Parra

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Getty Images)

Ex-England assistant and former Harlequins boss Paul Gustard has been confirmed as a new assistant coach at Stade Francais, the French Top 14 team that has also announced eight new player signings – including Morgan Parra – and a second new assistant coach for the 2022/23 season. The exit of Gustard from Harlequins in January 2021 was quickly followed by the announcement that he would join Benetton as their URC defence coach for a three-year period, starting in 2021/22.

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However, despite declaring himself pleased with the level of improvement at the Italian club over the course of his first season in Treviso, Gustard has now opted to test himself in the Top 14 after deciding to become part of the staff in Paris under Gonzalo Quesada.

Gustard will be busy as the current season for Stade ended poorly last Sunday night, a 33-17 home defeat to Brive leaving them finishing in eleventh place on the table with just eleven wins in 26 outings. Their concession of 561 points over the course of the campaign was also the eleventh worst defensive record in the competition, with only bottom pair Biarritz and Perpignan conceding more points along with tenth place Pau.

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Stade tweeted: “The former assistant to Eddy Jones (sic) and sporting director of Harlequins joins us. Welcome to Paris Paul!”

The other coaching appointment is James Kent, who has been working in the Stade academy since 2019. He will now be in charge of the first-team skills. It will be a first-team squad with a very different complexion from the team that finished the season last weekend as eight new players were unveiled on Tuesday evening prior to a supporters evening at the club.

With the likes of Antoine Burban and Waisea Nayacalevu leaving, the star name arrival will be Morgan Parra, the 33-year-old former France scrum-half arriving from Clermont where he spent 13 years. Another back arriving is Montauban winger Stephane Ahmed while Sione Tui is returning from being on loan for two seasons at Carcassonne.

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In the pack, Lyon’s Mickael Ivaldi and Lucas Peyresblanques of Biarritz – both hookers – were confirmed signings as were back-rowers Mathieu Hirigoyen, another recruit from Biarritz, Pau’s Giovanni Habel-Kueffner, Aurillac’s Giorgi Tsutskiridze and Toulon’s Julien Ory.

It was October when Gustard enthusiastically spoke with RugbyPass about his new life in Italy away from London after exiting Harlequins. “We always wanted to try something abroad,” he said at the time. “We were looking at Japan or maybe the southern hemisphere and probably with the impact of covid and older relations and all the rest of it, being so far away from the UK turned us off those ideas and then it was Italy or France or staying in the UK.

“Since I have been to Treviso I have loved it and we have settled in so well, it’s such a welcoming place, a very social culture, very friendly people. They have made us feel very welcome, so it has been awesome. During the pandemic first time around last March (2020), I had a contract offer from Quins but you always see what is the right fit for you and your family.”

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