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Four in frame for France role after Laporte rejects reports Galthie has the job

Four coaches remain in the frame to become the next France coach, after FFR President Bernard Laporte publicly denied Fabien Galthie had already got the job.

Media outlets were quick to pounce on a report in L’Equipe on Tuesday that Galthie had effectively been handed the keys to the French rugby kingdom. The article claimed his long coronation would start with him joining the national set-up ahead of the World Cup in Japan, leading to a complete takeover from Jacques Brunel after the tournament.

Some reports even named Lyon’s Pierre Mignoni and Toulouse’s William Servat as Galthie’s favoured lieutenants.

But, Laporte told La Provence on Wednesday: “Nothing has been recorded. We will make a decision within two weeks.”

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He did let slip the number of candidates on his all-French shortlist: “Galthie is one of the possibilities. Like three others.”

Laporte’s comment echoed claims by journalist Mathieu Lartot. He told France TV Sport: “Fabien Galthie is not yet the coach of the XV de France.

“He assured me that he had not signed a single contract with the FFR. There are discussions. They are examining avenues for collaboration. Things have been accelerating over the past five days. But that doesn’t mean that the games are over.”

The FFR, too, had weighed into the discussion with a tweet saying:

“Following the statements and assumptions made about the organisation of the staff of the XV de France after the 2019 World Cup, the French Rugby Federation confirms that no contract has been finalised to date. Several hypotheses are being studied.”

A second tweet added: “Jacques Brunel will decide on the organisation of his staff and will speak once it has been ratified. Its decision will be taken and communicated within 15 days.”

Laporte’s search area for someone to take over from Brunel shrank when France’s clubs voted down a plan to look overseas – ruling his personal choice, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, along with media favourite Warren Gatland, out of the reckoning.

Outgoing Castres Olympique coach Christophe Urios, for example, took himself off any possible list when he signed a four-year deal with Bordeaux earlier this year. Club president Laurent Marti had expressly sought assurances that Urios would not jump ship for the France post should it be offered before offering him the job.

So, here are the four names most likely to be on Laporte’s short list:

Fabien Galthie – By Laporte’s own admission, the former Montpellier and Toulon coach remains firmly on the list of possibles. It’s a gig that the man who was an experienced international scrum-half in the early years of the FFR president’s reign as France coach in the noughties has coveted for a long time. His big advantage, however – that he is not tied to a current coaching contract – is also his big disadvantage. While he has remained close to rugby in his capacity as a pundit for Six Nations broadcaster France 2, he has been out of coaching since losing the Toulon job at the end of last season. Widely regarded as a smart tactician, his player-management skills have been called into question…

Pierre Mignoni – The head honcho at Lyon has long been mentioned in dispatches as a future France coach. And he is another with long links to Laporte – first as an international player, than as a young coach under Laporte’s wing at Toulon from 2011 to 2015. Mignoni’s star is on the rise. He’s doing smart things at the ambitious club, coaching them to the Champions Cup for the first time last season – and almost certain to repeat that trick again this time around. And he coached the French Barbarians on their tour of South Africa in June 2017. But he’ll likely be expensive. The same year as he took charge of the French Baa-Baas, he signed a long-term deal to stay at Lyon until 2023.

Franck Azema – Last season was a injury-ravaged disaster for Azema’s Clermont. But, like Toulouse the campaign previously – and, perhaps, Toulon this time around – that could be a good thing. Clermont are second in the Top 14; and have a home semi-final in the Challenge Cup on the back of some bonkers all-out attacking rugby. The coach would surely be on any semi-serious list for France’s top job. Azema’s credentials are unimpeachable. He could be just what France needs, and with his Clermont contract up in June 2020, he may be available just when Laporte needs him.

Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit – The Racing duo have been linked to plenty of vacancies recently – including, for a while earlier this year, the Italian job. They, too, have contractual issues. Their current deals tie them to the club until 2021 – but a Top 14 title and two European Cup final appearances since 2016 mean they would be tempting for any union president.

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Four in frame for France role after Laporte rejects reports Galthie has the job