France is moving towards selecting a foreigner as their next national head coach, with FFR president Bernard Laporte building a shortlist of high-profile candidates to take the side through to the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.
According to French publication RugbyRama, the most sought after candidate is Warren Gatland, the Kiwi-coach who delivered his record third Grand Slam to Wales this year. Gatland has expressed a desire to return to coach in New Zealand, but with limited openings may decide to stay in Europe if the price is right.
L’Equipe reported that there have been preliminary discussions with Gatland but his salary expectations were thought to be an issue for the FFR. England’s current Kiwi assistant John Mitchell is the next best choice, with 2003-World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward also in the mix.
Former All Blacks head coach Mitchell has helped turn around England’s fortunes as a defence coach, bringing an edge to the side that improved to second in this year’s Six Nations while Woodward has spent time away from coaching since the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour.
Laporte will continue negotiations with the candidates before the summer but after Gatland and Mitchell arrive back from leave in New Zealand. He will consult with the clubs in the meantime and obtain support for appointing a foreigner as the head coach of France.
While in a move to ensure that this year’s World Cup is not a complete failure, France is set to sign former Irish flyhalf and Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O’Gara on a short-term contract as a defence coach. He has been identified as a backroom staff target following France’s poor showing in the recent Six Nations, and is reportedly close to finalising the move.
France finished the Six Nations in fourth place after winning just two of their five fixtures, leaving head coach Jacques Brunel under intense pressure with just five wins from 16 outings since taking the reigns from Guy Noves in late 2017.
Les Bleus kick-off their campaign against Argentina at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on September 21.
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