Judgement day is looming. Almost two weeks after France’s November debacle stuttered to a conclusion against Japan at the U Arena, French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte admitted he is no closer to reaching a decision on the futures of key members of Les Bleus’ set up — including head coach Guy Noves.
That decision is expected on Dec. 15. Noves has made it clear he expects to stay in the post — despite his record of just seven wins in 21 matches — and has even issued a warning to his players ahead of February’s Six Nations.
But whether the 63-year-old is still in charge when February comes remains to be seen. ESPN looks at six coaches who could replace Noves if Laporte decides that enough is enough.
Word in France is that the 63-year-old former Italy coach — who has been in charge at Bordeaux since the departure of Raphael Ibanez — is a strong favourite for the post-Noves Marcoussis hotseat. He has the credentials and he has the experience. Before taking the Italy job, he was assistant coach of France when FFR president Laporte was in charge. He has, of course, publicly poured cold water on suggestions he could be in line to take the job — but the speculation will not go away.
The young Lyon coach’s name is not as silverware-coated as some of the others on this list, but make no mistake Mignoni’s star is on the rise. He’s doing smart things at an ambitious club, their current four-match losing streak notwithstanding. Truth be told, his name would probably not yet be mentioned in such close proximity to the France job were it not for the current situation in the national set-up — not least because he has just signed a long-term contract extension. The thinking is that Brunel may be persuaded to take the job until after Japan, paving the way for a young gun like Mignoni to take over for 2023.
This season may not be going entirely to plan for Clermont, but the coach who finally ended the club’s long and often painful wait for some deserved silverware would surely be on any semi-serious list for France’s top job. Azema’s credentials are unimpeachable. Clermont are perennial challengers on domestic and European fronts. They can be breathtaking in attack, and scrooge-like in defence. They are as close to a classic French side as you will see in the modern game. He could be just what France needs.
Until it all went wrong for Galthie at Montpellier in late 2014, he was widely regarded as the heir apparent to the France throne. It has taken until this year to sort out the mess of his departure from the club, during which time he has been on gardening leave and pundit duty. His first few weeks in charge at Toulon have not been plain sailing, but there’s more confidence around the club than during the brief and ill-advised Diego Dominguez era. Like Brunel, Galthie has publicly rejected suggestions he may be about to jump ship for the France job. Besides, it took club owner Mourad Boudjellal so long to get his man that he’s unlikely to want to let him go — even if it’s Laporte doing the asking.
France so far have resisted looking overseas for a coach. If they decide to change their mind, the new man at Montpellier has all the attributes they would be looking for. The FFR would have to pay Mohed Altrad a pretty penny to prise Cotter out of his freshly minted contract, which may well count against him. But, he’s fluent in French, which works in his favour — unlike another overseas, internationally experienced coach, Jake White. He has proven experience of the Top 14 with Clermont, which is a definite plus. And he worked wonders with Scotland in his short tenure as national coach.
Along with Mignoni, 43-year-old pitbull Collazo is one of France’s hot young coaching properties. The former prop has, with a little help from right-hand man Xavier Garbajosa, taken La Rochelle from entertaining zeroes to all-conquering heroes in a ridiculously short time — and on a budget less than half that of some others in the French top flight. The question is whether carefully budgeted success can translate into big-time glory. He would not be the first coach to find things suddenly get much more difficult when money is no object. Besides, like Mignoni, he — and Garbajosa — have both agreed new long-term deals.