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Irishman in temporary charge at Toulon following Collazo sacking

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Getty Images)

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Toulon have called time on the reign of head coach Patrice Collazo following Sunday night’s Top 14 hammering at La Rochelle which left the three-time European champions drifting in 13th place, 19 points behind leaders Toulouse after just eight rounds of matches. 

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In charge since 2018, Collazo’s side have been very weak on their travels this term, losing 41-10 at Toulouse, 12-9 at Perpignan 27-16 at Castres and 39-6 at La Rochelle, that latest away defeat coming on the back of a home defeat to Racing. 

It has left the club in the relegation playoff spot in the Top 14 and rather than allow the situation to potentially worsen under Collazo ahead of Saturday’s huge game at home to fellow strugglers Biarritz, Toulon decided they needed to take drastic action quickly. 

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An All Black, a France squad and a disappearing act
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An All Black, a France squad and a disappearing act

A statement from the club read: “Rugby Club Toulon and Patrice Collazo have decided, by mutual agreement, to end their collaboration. The preparation for the Toulon-Biarritz match is now entrusted to the Toulon staff led by James Coughlan. Bernard Lemaitre will hold a press conference this Friday at the RCT Campus.”

The soon-to-be 41-year-old Coughlan only joined Toulon as an assistant in the off-season having previously coached at Brive, Provence and Pau. He is a former Munster teammate of Ronan O’Gara, the current La Rochelle boss.

There is speculation that the Irishman and fellow assistant Julien Dupuy could be left to steer the team for the next two games before a replacement for Collazo is recruited for the November 27 resumption of the league following a three-week break after the November 7 trip to Clermont. 

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Two names immediately linked to the vacancy were Franck Azema, the recent ex-Clermont boss, and Xavier Garbajosa, who has been on the market since exiting Montpellier last January. Another possible candidate is Lyon boss Pierre Mignoni, who was Bernard Laporte’s assistant during the Toulon glory years of three European Cup and one Top 14 title. His stumbling block is a contract tying him to Lyon until 2023.

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