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Referendum crucial to Gatland bid

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Gatland waiting in the wings as the French grassroots go to the polls

Warren Gatland’s return to Wales this week following his post-Six Nations break at home in New Zealand is expected to focus minds in France on whether they want the Kiwi as their national team coach to succeed Jacques Brunel.

Despite the French rugby federation being slapped with a €1million compensation bill following an employment tribunal hearing into their December 2017 dismissal of Guy Noves, president Bernard Laporte is expected to move along with attempts to convince Gatland to take over from Brunel at the end of the World Cup in France.

No overseas coach has previously held the position of France national team coach and rather than use his own power to appoint whoever he likes to the role, Laporte has launched a referendum in order to get the green light from the French rugby grassroots to potentially appoint a foreigner such as Gatland to the job.

This consultation opened on Tuesday and will finish two days later on April 11. Each club throughout France has one vote each, regardless of the size of its staff, and the result of this consultation will be certified by a bailiff and made public on April 12 on the FFR website.

In the event of a positive outcome to the referendum that will take the pulse of the amateur world regarding what would be a cultural revolution for the French, Laporte is expected to speed things up in the hope of securing a decision before the summer.

Laporte and Gatland are reported to have met during the recent Six Nations that was won by Wales, with Midi Olympique claiming the French president has sounded out the New Zealander about salary and his thoughts on the role that would take him through to the 2023 World Cup that is being hosted by France.

Gatland, who has also reportedly been contacted by the RFU and some Premiership clubs, would have to work with a French staff if he agreed to succeed Brunel who was appointed in a hurry for the 2018 Six Nations following the sacking of Noves.

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Gatland waiting in the wings as the French grassroots go to the polls