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Simon Mannix's Portugal swoop to recruit Olivier Azam

Montellier forwards coach Olivier Azam before the Heineken Champions Cup Pool A match between Leinster and Montpellier Hérault at RDS Arena in Dublin. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Portugal are getting their muskets ready for the Summer Internationals, and to boost their chances of a positive tour to South Africa, Simon Mannix staff got an upgrade, specifically in the forward’s engine room, as former French international Olivier Azam joins them for the next couple of years.

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Azam’s last gig was with the Montpellier’s forwards, having helped the Altrad-owned club to win the 2021/2022 Top 14 before resigning in November of 2022. The 49-year-old was a Les Bleus international in the 90s, having played for AS Montferrand and Gloucester, winning two EPCR Challenge Cups (1999 and 2006) and one Anglo-Welsh Powergen Cup in 2003. At Gloucester, he forged a relationship with Simon Mannix, as both shared the locker-room in the 2000/2001 season.

His first experience as a coach was with RC Toulon as a set-piece specialist, spending two years there and helping the club win the Heineken Champions Cup. The former hooker would trade clubs in the July of 2013 assuming the role of forwards coach at LOU, with more silverware following, as the Lyonnais side lifted the Pro D2 title.

Between 2015 and 2019 he had his only spell as head-coach in the Top 14 with US Oyonnax, but would exit just four months into the job after a disappointing season start.

In 2019 he would have his first job abroad, joining the England U20s staff as a scrum coach, sticking with them until 2020, when Montpellier called and signed him to join Xavier Garbajosa and Jean-Baptiste Élissalde.

Azam’s knowledge of the set-piece, especially in the scrum, his good positioning and connections with the top flight of French rugby, and his vast experience coaching the pro side of the game, were crucial in the decision to add his name to Portugal’s backroom staff.

At this time, it isn’t clear if he will be added also to the Lusitanos franchise staff.

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