Brunel replaces sacked Noves as France coach


Paris (AFP)

Guy Noves was sacked on Wednesday as France coach after two torrid years at the helm with former Italy boss Jacques Brunel named as his successor, French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte announced.

Brunel, 63, joins the national set-up from Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles just five weeks before France face Ireland in their Six Nations opener.

His contract stretches to the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Laporte told a press conference at a Paris hotel, and he will be assisted in a break from tradition before each game by "a pool of five or six" Top 14 coaches.

Brunel told AFP that his immediate aim was to win the Six Nations.

"We have to start with the simple things," he said. "Perhaps in the past we have focused too much on the World Cup and not on the present moment and that is the Six Nations.

"Every year, France must be competitive for the final victory."

Laporte hailed Brunel for his passion "of man and rugby".

"That's his major strength. He is able to assume this responsibility which is not an easy one. He has broad shoulders and experience," said the French rugby chief.

Noves, also 63, suffers the ignominy of becoming the first Les Bleus manager in history to be axed.

He has paid the price for the worst record of any France coach with a meagre seven wins from 22 matches (21 Tests), alongside 14 defeats and a humiliating home draw with 2019 World Cup hosts Japan.

Under his watch France lost six consecutive games between June and November this year.

"We couldn't continue heading towards the wall. We had to return to the table to find new solutions, because a France team that is not winning means a federation and a sport is dying," Laporte commented.

Brunel was once ex France boss Laporte's right-hand man as forwards coach from 2001-2007.

He took Perpignan to the French league title in 2009 and spent five years in charge of Italy between 2011 and 2016 before switching to Bordeaux.

Brunel will officially begin the task of rebuilding the national side next week, Laporte said, after his final match as Bordeaux coach against Stade Francais on Saturday.

Explaining the new system of assistants Laporte said: "We want to put in place a monitoring group for internationals of coaches who have players called up, because clubs and the France team can no longer exist apart.

"There will be technical meetings, asking what are we doing with France? How are we playing? We no longer want a situation where on one side we have the management, on the other the clubs, and in the middle the players."

Noves was appointed by Laporte's predecessor Pierre Camou after the debacle of France's 62-13 drubbing by New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup.

He appeared an obvious choice, boasting an impressive domestic track record with 10 French titles and four European Cup triumphs during his time with Toulouse.

His assistants, Yannick Bru (forwards coach) and Jean-Frederic Dubois (backs), were also relieved of their duties.