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Paul Gustard linked with a switch to the Top 14 - report

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ex-England assistant Paul Gustard has been linked with a switch to the Top 14 for next season. It was 2018 when Eddie Jones’ defence coach left to take over as head coach at Harlequins. That role finished up prematurely in January 2021 and he has since been working as the Benetton defence coach where he has a three-year deal taking him through to 2024. 

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It was just last Wednesday when Gustard delivered a verdict on his first year in Treviso where Benetton will play their final match of the season this Friday knowing that a win over Cardiff would see them leapfrog the Welsh region into 13th place in the 16-team league where they have won just five of their 17 matches so far.

The Italians have conceded 480 points, leaving them ranked as the eleventh-best defence in the tournament in terms of points conceded, and it left Gustard stating that there was much to improve next season despite the year-one progress of the new coaching group assembled by Benetton after Kieran Crowley left to take over the Italian national team.

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“From a personal point of view, I am happy with a lot of the work done – I have noticed excellent improvements in the development of the players even if sometimes we concede too many points and too easy tries to the opponents, so there is still a lot of work to do,” said Gustard. 

“I am directly responsible and I know we need to find a way to better defend the mauls. Finally, we need to defend well in the first five attacking phases of the opponents but for now, we are conceding too many tries in the first three phases. So there will be a lot of work in view of next year in finding new defence strategies. In any case, I have also observed a lot of progress.”

However, despite those comments suggesting what Gustard would be targeting at Benetton next season, it emerged on Friday in the French media that he is apparently in line to become defence coach at Stade Francais under Gonzalo Quesada. He is looking for two new assistants in Paris after overhauling his squad for 2022/23 with nine new player signings. 

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Midi Olympique have reported that Quesada will appoint Australian James Kent as the Stade skills coach having worked with the French U20s and with Fabien Galthie on the 2021 tour to Australia. He is already at the club working in a different position. The French rugby newspaper then added that Gustard was in the frame to become defence coach, although they erroneously claimed he hasn’t worked since leaving Harlequins.   

“As for the technician who will lead the Parisian defence next season, the case is also heard. The choice of the leaders fell on a specialist recognised across the Channel: Paul Gustard (46 years old). The former flanker has a nice CV. 

“He was a Saracens assistant from 2008 to 2016, served for two years as a defence specialist with England and he led the Harlequins from 2018 to January 2021. Unemployed since his hasty departure from the club which later became champions, Paul Gustard will therefore find a role at Jean-Bouin.”

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