Rugby: Laporte signs new four-year deal
PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) - French rugby chiefs bowed to Bernard Laporte's wish for more power as national rugby coach when the 39-year-old Frenchman signed a new four-year deal here at the federation headquarters on Friday.
Laporte, whose continued tenure had looked likely but uncertain after France’s mediocre World Cup campaign, will now lead France all the way to the 2007 World Cup in France.
His agreement came after the thrashing out of certain conditions – which means he will work in more harmony with the national coaching programmeme and more closely with France’s top flight clubs.
Confidence in his coaching capacities seems to be assured. Laporte, who took over in November 1999 and has led France to Six Nations Grand Slam victory in 2002 and fourth place in this year’s World Cup in Australia, is the first coach of France to be offered a second four-year deal since the era of Jacques Fouroux in 1981-1990.
Laporte’s first test in his new tenure will comme on February 14, 2004 when France welcome Ireland at the Stade de France to kick off their 2004 Six Nations campaign.
“The main development for me is that I’ll be working hand in hand with the national coaching school,” said Laporte, who previously had had a shaky relationship with the DTN president Pierre Villepreux, who is now retired.
The deal also means that Laporte will be virtually free of any intervention on the part of members of the DTN when it comes to preparing the national team for major campaigns.
Laporte’s wish to work closer with France’s top clubs should also be respected although he did not rule out using some outside experts with official preparation periods for the national team.
As such, Laporte will retain the help of the assistant coaches who have been at his side since the autmumn of 2000: David Ellis (defence), Jacques Brunel (forwards), Bernard Vivies (backs) and Daniel Servais (fitness).
After England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson booted England to victory in the World Cup final over Australia, Laporte said he may also recruit a kicking specialist to work with the team – in all likelihood Stade Francais’ Diego Dominguez of Italy/Argentina.
After weeks of uncertainty for Laporte – who to continue as coach said he needed to have the agreement of his two teenage children – Laporte said he simply needed time to reflect.
“To be the coach of France you have to have faith, energy and enthusiasm. After the tournament I had to just empty my mind of everything and to talk to the people who are close to me,” he explained.
Laporte is now focused on doing the unprecedented – helping France win the William Webb Ellis Cup at the next World Cup in 2007.
But before then the Six Nations tournament in 2004 should give him plenty to worry about.
“We’re going to have to get a team together very quickly,” said Laporte, who lost veterans Raphael Ibanez (international retirement) and Fabien Galthie (retirement) after the recent campaign.
Since he took over in 1999, France have a record of 28 victories, one draw and 20 losses from 49 matches.
The 2007 World Cup will be hosted by France although some matches will be played in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Subject: France news