The French rugby squad is on the cusp of an all-too-familiar civil war at the Rugby World Cup ahead of ‘Le Crunch’ against England, following a stunning outburst from Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal and report captain Guilhem Guirado has been ousted from his role by the senior management.
France laboured to a 23-21 victory over Tonga on Sunday night to book their place in the quarter-finals with a match to spare. But their performances in Japan have got increasingly worse as the tournament has gone on, and with a winner-takes-all encounter against rivals England scheduled on Saturday, the French camp appears to be in disarray once again.
Eight years after a player coup took France from pool-stage calamity in losing to Tonga to the World Cup final, French newspaper Midi Olympique has reported a fallout between Guirado and the senior staff that includes head coach Jacques Brunel and assistant Fabien Galthie, who is set to replace Brunel after the World Cup. It adds that the row could spread to the rest of the squad given that Guirado remains “the players’ captain”, but Jefferson Poirot seems certain to skipper Les Bleus against England this weekend.
The scenario took a further twist on Monday after Toulon owner Boudjellal – for whom Guirado played for in France between 2014 and this summer – launched a fierce verbal attack on the coaching team, and called for the players to “take control” of the campaign as has happened in the past.
“Take control guys, take the power, because there are coaches all over the place. Our team spirit is almost non-existent,” Boudjellal said. “Individually, we have players who are world class. Collectively, for several years, that hasn’t been the case.
“Since when have we been frightened against these teams [such as Tonga], who we respect, of course, but who aren’t on our level? Take control guys, because it is your history, your World Cup.
“You are there for your career and for your country. You are there for French rugby and to try to go as far as possible, to see if you can win this World Cup – but we will only get there if you take control.
“Japan is a magnificent country to visit. Out coaches who are there, I invite you to visit Japan, go and look around, treat yourself and leave the players to tell their own stories because for years I have not understood the game plan of this France team.
“Honestly, I don’t understand. Something is going wrong, so it’s over to you guys [the players]. Tell the coaches to go on holiday. Write your story yourself.
“There is a lot of experience, there are guys in this group who will certainly be major coaches in the future, so start to be a big coach today. Start today, kick the coaches out, take control, tell your own story, because we are ready to follow you.”
Brunel looks set to stick with Racing 92 hooker Camille Chat ahead of Guirado for the Pool C decider against England.
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