reports from Toulouse
Andre Herrero has been France's team manager for all of two months and has already had enough of the venomous infighting at the top of French rugby. Last night he announced he would resign after tomorrow's first Test against New Zealand here at the Parc Toulousain.
Relations between the French federation and its international players are so strained, specifically over the effective suspension of three senior internationals who began this season in South Africa, that the squad of 21 for this Test last night boycotted a civic reception at the imposing Capitole building in the city centre in protest.
Whereupon Herrero decided to quit as a protest against both the players, whom he described as "egotistical and unrepresentative of French rugby", and the federation for its mismanagement. "I cannot go on," he lamented.
It is a sorry departure for one of the most deeply respected figures in the game here, an illustrious forward capped 22 times in the Sixties and a lifetime servant of the Toulon club as player, captain, coach and president.
Yesterday's events, climactic and farcical, were set in train as long ago as June when Laurent Cabannes, Thierry Lacroix and Olivier Roumat stayed on in South Africa after the World Cup. In direct defiance of Bernard Lapasset, the federation president, they did not come home until after the Currie Cup final - in which all three played - on 14 October.
Lapasset then imposed a month's "rest", thereby excluding Cabannes, Lacroix and Roumat from consideration for tomorrow's match. Three weeks ago the players thought they had persuaded Lapasset to change his mind, only to be disabused last week when the president finally refused to back down.
Then, the national squad of 33 made a final plea by writing to Lapasset from a training camp in Bordeaux last weekend. The president's implacable response provoked a unanimous vote after training yesterday to boycott last night's function. Perfect preparation for a Test match? Mais non.
NEW ZEALAND (v France, Toulouse, tomorrow): J Wilson (Otago); E Rush, F Bunce, W Little (all North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); S Culhane (Southland), S Forster (Otago); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, R Brooke (all Auckland), I Jones, B Larsen (both North Harbour), Z Brooke, M Jones (both Auckland).Reuse content