Rugby: Storm clouds gather over Laporte

16th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

16 September 2006, PARIS (AFP) - If France coach Bernard Laporte thought losing the opening match to Argentina at the World Cup was bad then he could hardly have enjoyed the week in between that match and the game against part-timers Namibia in Toulouse on Sunday.

16 September 2006

PARIS (AFP) - If France coach Bernard Laporte thought losing the opening match to Argentina at the World Cup was bad then he could hardly have enjoyed the week in between that match and the game against part-timers Namibia in Toulouse on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Laporte's week got progressively worse and it was not just to do with on the field disasters, but also with more ridicule and attention being paid to his business contracts and motivational techniques.

Such was the media frenzy that towards the end of the week President Nicolas Sarkozy's spokesperson had to make a statement declaring that Laporte's position as a junior sports minister after the World Cup was not in question.

Before adding the less reassuring "for the moment" which in sporting parlance adds up to the dreaded vote of confidence.

"It would be serious were my future dependent on one match," said Laporte, whose World Cup hopes could come to an end prematurely next Friday should Six Nations Triple Crown winners Ireland beat them at the Stade de France.

"If that had been the case I wouldn't have accepted the post of sports minister.

"But for me I am not worried because the president does not mix one thing with another," he added confidently.

However, for a future minister of a centre-right government, many have questioned his judgement and good taste in having full-back Clement Poitrenaud read out a letter written by a young resistance fighter called Guy Moquet - who was a communist - to his mother just hours before he was executed by the Germans in World War II.

It was meant as a rallying call to the 22 players for the Pumas match which backfired spectacularly and the French Communist party was especially outraged as Laporte insisted the word "comrade" be replaced by a word more commonly associated with the right wing resistance.

"Rugby is not war," commented former sports minister and leader of the Communist Party Marie-George Buffet.

"Guy Moquet died in a war against the barbarism of Nazis, in which he was trying to create a new and better world."

For former French international prop Laurent Benezech it showed remarkably bad judgement, especially how a letter that begins with the words 'I am going to die' could possibly energise a group of players.

"Rather I think it would create far too much emotion," said Benezech.

The fallout from that has also rebounded on TFI, who hold the domestic broadcasting rights to the World Cup.

Despite having a contract worth 440,000 euros with the French Rugby Federation to film the French team before, and after the match in the dressing-room and the corridors have now been told they cannot, as it was they who filmed the reading of the letter.

Laporte, though, has also come under fire for his often controversial outside business interests which he has been told he will have to divest himself of before taking up his ministerial duties.

Aside from investing in casinos he has also been promoting, among other products, ham and he came under fire late in the week for selling French team shirts at double the normal price (146 euros plus delivery costs as opposed to 75), though his agent manfully owned up to being solely responsible for the gaffe.

As many an England football manager could tell him that when you start being openly criticised and ridiculed - he was subjected to humiliating cartoons in L'Equipe this week as well as being featured on the puppet current affairs satire 'Guignols' - the writing is on the wall.

However should they win big against the Irish then he could start to think he could prove to be like Aime Jacquet in 1998 - emulating the much criticised French football manager in destroying his critics and landing the World Cup.

AFP

Subject: German news

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