Former Scottish international Johnnie Beattie has shed light on the inner workings of French national head coach Fabien Galthie, who he believes could be a world-class coach if he can overcome some of his personality traits.
Beattie was talking on Le French Rugby podcast, with fellow ex-international Benjamin Kayser, about their experiences with the fiery Galthie, who has a reputation in French rugby circles as a uniquely passionate and driven force, but one which could leave carnage in his wake.
“There were stories that we heard from Stade Francais which were worst, if not the same,” said Beattie, who retired from professional rugby earlier this year and who was coached by Galthie at Montpellier.
“He’s a guy that at the World Cup refused to play the third and fourth place playoff, when he was a player. After losing the semi he said ‘I’m not playing’ and just flew home. It was about him and he wanted to be the best and that’s it.
“Fundamentally he is a top-class coach. I’ve said before, he is the best coach I’ve worked with from a technical perspective but there are personality traits that hold him back. If it wasn’t for them he would be one of the best in the world. 100 per cent.
“To give you an example. We had a player that re-signed a contract at Montpellier with Mohed Altrad, three year contract, good sum of money, playing really well but Fabien hadn’t okayed it, and just to prove he was the boss, he said ‘I refuse to have that guy, it wasn’t me that okayed it, pay him out’ and that was it. A week later, the guy who signed this contract, had three years of money in a cheque paid into his bank account. The guy had to go find another club, sometime in July.
“There’s a long history of stories. He’s an amazing coach. A very, very smart man as well. But there are stories that would leave a bad taste in your mouth’.
Kayser, who was also coached by Galthie, said it was ‘a bit complicated for me to comment on that one’ because he was his first professional coach at Stade Francais.
“I had Nick Mallett when I arrived in 2003 but I played one game under him off the bench. He [Galthie] trusted me like no body ever did,” said Kayser.
“You can say what you want about him. He’s ballsy. He’s got nuts of steel. He backs himself and he’s got great strategy. But I’ll give you an example, when I was 19, 20, a semi-final in Bordeaux against Toulouse, who were killing everyone at the time.
“Remember at the Stade Chaban-Delmas? The Bordeaux pitch, there is a long tunnel to go through, you walk for a long, long time. And he stood behind me the whole tunnel, and he was just whispering stuff in my ear. Do this and do that. Literally helping. I was so focused I wasn’t really listening to what he was saying. Fair enough, he’s the coach, I wasn’t going to tell him to f*** off.
“I play really well and we win. I’m sky high and shake his hand and first thing he says to me is like – he likes to play poker face the whole time – he says “You’re not going to say thank you? See how much I helped you in the tunnel? I gave you that game didn’t I.”
“I’m 20 so I say ‘thank you Fabien’, I’m not really standing up for myself. At the same time, he trusted me like nobody else. He really did help me and what he told me was true. What I worked on worked.
“He’s the only coach that said on a Tuesday ‘Hang on…let met think. So we’re going to create this play. So this is what happens at the lineout, you do this, this and that and that and score’ and we did.”
“He’s a strategic genius. But I’ve seen him to do stuff to others that was very, very tough. He struggled with people who needed a human side. He struggles with people who are not ruthless or hardcore as him, which is a trait of all the guys who are very, very driven. Not quite like Michael Jordan in The Last Dance, but that sort of angle.
“The only way is tough. If you need the heart and soul stuff then f*** off… but some guys do [need the human side]. The best coaches need to recognise that the fifteen guys in the room, and those all individuals. He was a bit ‘My way or the door’.”
Both agreed Galthie was best suited to be a national coach. “100 per cent,” the pair both said.
“We said back at Montpellier that this guy is capable of ruining a club environment, his continuous-ness everyday but jeez, if you could take him to the French team or Scotland team during an 8 week campaign, be it a summer tour or World Cup, then this guy would be number one on everyone’s list,” said Beattie. “He is the best attack coach in France, without a doubt. You look at the England game in the Six Nations. The way they broke down the English defence, it had Fabien written all over it. They’re still the same plays that we used in Montpellier. The same open field structure plays and the same pop balls over the shoulder to unlock defences, it was all Fabien.
“Now you’ve got him married with Shaun Edwards. Unbelievable.”
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