France require foreign coach
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: French chiefs need to swallow their pride and appoint a foreign coach if they are to become a rugby superpower again, former New Zealand hooker Sean Fitzpatrick has told AFP.
Fitzpatrick, 55, said it was no accident the top four sides in the world had the best coaches and that three of those were foreign – Ireland with Joe Schmidt, England boss Eddie Jones and Wales’ Warren Gatland.
“If the All Blacks feel they have not got the best New Zealand-born coach in the world they will look outside,” said Fitzpatrick ahead of the Laureus Awards in Monaco.
“Whoever would have thought England would call on an Australian to coach their national side, but they made a bold call and went for the best they could find.
“I know France has said it is something they will never do but they need to do the same [as England and others].
“I do not know [Jacques] Brunel and I am not having a go at him but something is wrong.”
Fitzpatrick, a member of the New Zealand team that won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 who went on to captain the All Blacks as they lost the 1995 final to hosts South Africa, said the best teams in the world at the moment – New Zealand, Ireland and Wales – were there because they had the correct structure in place with central contracts for national team players.
He said England had partly succeeded in addressing the problem of who has first call on players between club and country but France was another matter.
“I am speaking as a total outsider but I am a very passionate French fan like a lot of older people,” said Fitzpatrick, who was saddened by the humiliating 44-8 Six Nations defeat France suffered against England earlier this month.
“The way they played in the first half of the Six Nations match with Wales [surging into a 16-0 half-time lead before losing 24-19], wow, no team can play like that, the way they passed the ball and the flow of their game.
“But you come to Twickenham and it is very sad, it is not the way it should be.”
Fitzpatrick suggested that it was no coincidence that the All Blacks were the best team in the world as their domestic sides do not have any players ineligible for the national team, whereas French Top 14 is a magnet for foreigners.
“They have enough talent to win but they need to look at themselves and ask ‘why do we need all these foreign players’.
“It is club versus country and it is a massive thing because the clubs come before country due to them owning the players.”
Fitzpatrick, who is chairman of the Laureus Academy, a global movement that aims to use the power of sport to tackle social challenges in the world, said the bosses of both the club game and the French Federation needed to hold talks.
“They need the national game to be strong for the grassroots to prosper,” he said.
“No disrespect but people love winners.”
Argentinian rugby icon Hugo Porta says France could still perform well at the World Cup in Japan later this year, but the 67-year-old former flyhalf said some introspection was required.
“I think they must respect their culture, us Latins we are unpredictable,” he said.
“If I was French I would look inside and I would say ‘what are we missing of our culture’.
“The way they passed the ball, the flair, they must not lose that.
“That is what makes them different.”