Jonny Wilkinson, that most private of players, is renowned for internalising the negatives when his rugby life goes sour on him. Bernard Laporte, his boss at Toulon, takes a different approach. The former France national coach’s reaction to the European champions’ defeat at Cardiff Blues two days ago was a classic of public vituperation.
Laporte, briefly a member of the French government as secretary of state for sport, accused his side – a line-up full to overflowing with top internationals, including Wilkinson and two fellow Englishmen in the Armitage brothers, Delon and Steffon – of being “lifeless”. He then branded them “pathetic” and questioned their fitness levels. “It is clear that physically, we have a big problem,” he was quoted as saying in France. “I am not going to say it is the fault of our fitness team, because they are the same as last year.
“The players must realise that they weren’t good enough and react, now,” he continued, casting his mind towards this weekend’s Top 14 meeting with Toulouse. “We were champions, but I don’t care about ‘were’. I want ‘to be’. I want this team in the present and winning the games put in front of them.” And to sign off, he took aim at the quality of the contest at the Arms Park. “It was a shit match,” he remarked, by way of analysis.
Meanwhile, another leading British player earning his money across the water, the Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips, is among a group of Bayonne players accused of turning up for a video analysis session while under the influence of alcohol. The alleged incident happened a little over a week ago, after the Basque club’s Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Grenoble.
Phillips, hardly a stranger to the disciplinary process at Bayonne having been suspended last year for off-field misconduct, was scheduled to make an appearance before the club’s directors today.