FFR President Bernard Laporte will have to look closer to home to find the next coach of France, after clubs rejected the idea of a foreigner taking the job.
Just over half of the 1,800 clubs (51%) in France affiliated to the FFR took part in the organisation’s first-ever email referendum on whether France should hire an overseas coach to take over from Jacques Brunel in 2020.
A total 59% of respondants said they wanted the next national team coach to be French, the FFR confirmed on Friday morning.
In a statement confirming the result, Laporte said: “It is important for me to give the clubs the opportunity to speak. Over the past two years, the FFR has taken a turning point in its democratisation. We have set up direct democracy and referendums to involve clubs in important decisions.
“The XV de France belongs first and foremost to the amateur rugby clubs that train our future international players.
“The preparation of the 2023 World Cup, which we are proud to have won in France, is a great opportunity to involve them in the choice of the future coach.
“The question of the French or foreign nationality of the coach of the XV of France is sometimes a debate for insiders and enthusiasts. To define this orientation, 59% of clubs did not want a foreign coach.
“I welcome this democratic decision and, of course, I will respect that choice. We can move forward calmly to build the necessary conditions with the objective of winning the World Cup in 2023.”
The decision has brought a halt to discussions with a number of coaches. Laporte had previously revealed he had spoken to ‘the top five coaches in the world’ to discuss the soon-to-be-vacant position in the Marcoussis hotseat.
Wales coach Warren Gatland’s name repeatedly cropped up in articles, as pundits installed him as favourite for the job. Jon Mitchell and Sir Clive Woodward – who had unsuccessfully applied for the job in 2015 – were also mentioned, as were Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter.
He also recently promised he would appoint Brunel’s successor before the World Cup in Japan kicked off. “We have agreed that we have to switch quickly to the 2023 World Cup [cycle] in France,” he said in an interview with Le Progrès.
“The next coach will be appointed before the 2019 World Cup. Because the guys I want, if I’m not the one who gets them signed, others will. So we’ll have to move fast.”
But, as the vote revealed, there was widespread hostility to the notion of France hiring its first overseas coach.
Fabien Pelous, the former Toulouse and France lock, was quick to condemn the idea. “Once again, we will try to copy others instead of being proud of who we are,” he told Le Parisien, describing it as, “a snub for some talented technicians who do excellent work in their respective clubs, such as the team of Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, Ugo Mola or Franck Azema.”
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