France’s Top 14 is killing French rugby

nickoldschool Roar Guru

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    Another Six Nations is done and dusted, and with it the battle for Northern Hemisphere supremacy. Wales deservedly won the Grand Slam while England did better than expected with a young, bold and talented team.

    Both nations have a bright future with an average age of 25. Players like Davies, Cuthbert, Tuilagi, North, Farrell or Morgan are still in their early 20s. Don’t pencil them in as World Cup winners just yet, but they have every right to believe that they are on the right track.

    Declan Kidney’s Ireland are behind and will have to unearth some new talent if they want to avoid what looks like a pending fall in world rugby. Last week’s performance against England was abysmal up front and although the foundations are good, they, like Wales and England before, will have to take some drastic rejuvenating measures to ensure such hidings don’t recur too often.

    Italy and Scotland are undoubtedly the fifth and sixth nations of the lot. Jacques Brunel’s first few months as Italian head coach have been encouraging and if they keep on playing with this new attitude, results should come their way.

    But how about France? Two wins (against Italy and Scotland), two losses (to England and Wales) and a draw against Ireland. Yes, we are talking about the 2011 Rugby World Cup silver medallists.

    This result would have been poor if the French went in with new, developing players. But this side was almost the same as the one that so nearly defeated the All Blacks in the World Cup final.

    Coach Philippe Saint-Andre clearly wanted to start his coaching reign with a Six Nations’ win. He failed. Badly. There are no excuses for the result. His team was the most experienced of the tournament. He knew that Nallet, Bonnaire and Servat were retiring from international rugby after the tournament, while players around 31 or 32 included Rougerie, Clerc, Yachvili, Harinordoquy, Pape, Mas, and Poux.

    Yet, all of them were selected. Nallet, Bonnaire and Servat ended their rugby career on a sour note rather than the World Cup silver medal high.

    Dusautoir, Debaty, Szarzewski, Pierre, Poitrenaud and Fritz will all be around 32 or 33 come the next Rugby World Cup. Some are still at the top of their game. Leaders like Dusautoir or Szarzewski should stay and make the transition between the generations. But Debaty, Poitrenaud or even Pierre have always been fringe players for France and this won’t change: they are not going to be the best in their position in 2015.

    To play a post Rugby World Cup competition with an ageing group didn’t make any sense. It was a waste of time at best.

    Question: does French rugby have the young cattle that Wales and England have unearthed in the last couple of years? Let alone the talent unearthed by the southern hemisphere teams over the past few years? Unfortunately for France, the answer is no.

    Despite this, France’s domestic Top 14 has arguably some of the best players on earth as well as the biggest budgets in world rugby.

    While this may seem strange at first instance, it should not be a surprise to anyone.

    Around 40 percent of Top 14 players are foreigners: players who can’t qualify for their national sides. That’s roughly 250 players.

    Teams like Toulon or Stade Francais have over 20, and no Top 14 club has less than 10.

    Many in the 22-man squad which played Wales last weekend are not even regular starters at their own club. Beauxis is behind McAlister at Toulouse; where Poux shares the front row with Steenkamp, Botha and Johnston. Pierre has to deal with Cudmore and Hines in Clermont’s second row; while his teammates Rougerie, Fofana and Buttin share the backline with Sivivatu, Russell, Canale, Byrne or Murimurivalu. This pattern continues across the league.

    If French internationals struggle getting game time at club level, how do you expect them to find and develop new talent? Outside the Six Nations, when many internationals re-join their national squads, it is impossible. While it happened with Christophe Tolofua this is not a sustainable means of talent development.

    The situation French rugby is facing now is no surprise and is certainly not unique in Europe. England’s football team is in the same boat. Rich, cashed-up clubs want to win titles, now. For this, they need the best players in the paddock. Laws in Europe being what they are, humans can travel and work wherever they want.

    That’s why Mourad Boudjellal, Toulon’s president, has Giteau, Wilkinson, Hayman, Sheridan, Botha, Shaw, Fernandez-Lobbe, Tawake, Van Niekerk, Henjak, David Smith and Lovobalavu on the same roster. Young French players get the bench-warmer role at best.

    Realising the national team was going to hit the wall sooner rather than later, the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) decided, at last, to intervene and put a stop to this nonsense. A programme ensuring local development was created, JIFF (Joueurs Issus des Filières de Formation), which involved players coming from training clubs or training centres. This organisation has set quotas relating to the periods of time players have spent at particular training centres/facilities, that teams must adhere to.

    Starting at 40 percent JIFF players in 2011-2012, the quota will increase to 60 percent in 2013-2014.

    That’s a start. With awareness comes responsibility and although the solution offered is undoubtedly too little too late to aim at anything significant in the next few years, depth in French rugby should improve beyond 2015. However, these rules must be adhered to by clubs to ensure results.

    Already there are talks of recruiting 16 year-old foreign players through these ‘training centres’. They would qualify as French by the time they are adults.

    If practices like this become common, it will only spell more trouble for French rugby.

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • March 23rd 2012 @ 3:50am
      James D said | March 23rd 2012 @ 3:50am | ! Report

      Top 14 is good for all rugby except French Rugby.

    • March 23rd 2012 @ 4:44am
      kingplaymaker said | March 23rd 2012 @ 4:44am | ! Report

      I’m afraid I disagree with this article, although I would certainly agree that France were awful this Six Nations.

      France have plenty of playing talent, but do not select their best players much of the time. The current system does unearth very talented players, and it does so because having a good number of foreign imports in each team means there can be many more competitive ones, which would be impossible without the imports. In fact it is an IDEAL system.

      If France selected Wesley Fofana and Mattieu Bastareaud in the centres this would be one of the best midfields in the world. Jean-Marcellin Buttin is one of the bright young talents of rugby. France does have these players: it just doesn’t select them. As said in the article, many ancient forwards are retained ahead of younger and more dynamic players.

      It’s not French rugby’s fault that the national team has blundering coaches who select badly.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 6:20am
        Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 6:20am | ! Report

        Name the playing talent. Who are these players?

        The Toulon side is an example of an ideal system? Likewise Clermont? Stade Francais? Really?

        Please, please select a different side to the side selected by PSA. Please. I’m very, very interested.

        Extreme position for the sake of it as usual…

        • March 23rd 2012 @ 10:20am
          Bakkies said | March 23rd 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          England have a reputation for destroying talent.

          France are just poorly managed and coached. Lievremont selected 90 players in his four year tenure that’s crazy. You aren’t going to build a side when you are constantly changing combinations.

          France have plenty of talent and a 16 club second tier (ProD2) and is growing rugby outside of the traditional rugby areas in the south west it will take a decade for the places in non traditional areas to develop quality players due to the growth of rugby. Same situation as Ireland (you only have to look at where irish rugby was 10 years ago compared to now in terms of interest).

          Players like Picamoles, Lapendry, Parra, Wisniewski, Pallison, Mermoz, Medard, Maestri, Gallan, Doussain are young. Montpellier is farming a good side based on young players from their academy and mixed with players from tier 2 and tier 3 rugby countries. They need to pick the right halves combination asap. France hasn’t really produced a quality flyhalf in a long time relying on slow scrum halfs to call the shots. France has an excellent facility in Marcoussis i suggest you should look it up and looking at building it’s own stadium which will generate more income. I wouldn’t be blaming the Top 14 French training attitudes are different and they aren’t as obssesed with weight and gym work like Australia, SA and England are doing. Fabien Galthie should have been the new coach but he is working on building Montpellier up in to a good side playing positive French style rugby. Toulouse play an attractive brand which I use as a blue print for coaching young sides.

          Toulon was a broke club in a proud Rugby city dwindling in Pro D2 when Boudjellal took over and he resorted to bringing in high profile players from abroad to get them pack to the top of the Top 14 quickly

          • March 23rd 2012 @ 10:39am
            Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            Not sure where that reputation comes from re: England, tbh. I’ve never heard it personally.

            Those players are young, but only some are proven and given the dearth of back row talent Lapandry rarely ever gets a game for Clermont, for example. Who is the next young lock beyond Maestri? Jacquet certainly never developed. Who is the next young hooker? I’m a fan of Guirado, but he never gets game time at Test level. Where are the front row replacements? Palisson isn’t exactly a French Shane Williams either. All things considered I don’t see those names and think what a good job the Top 14 is doing in producing French talent. You are never going to produce young talent when the top French sides are filled with foreign players.

            The French 9 tends to play at first receiver a lot, so it’s a combination of foreign fly halves and a the French style of play.

            I’m well aware of Marcoussis, but where’s the relevance?

            I think it’s a myth that Toulouse play good rugby. They haven’t consistently played what is considered generic French rugby in a while.

            Boudjellal is a collector. He’s like Abravmovich when he first took over Chelsea – bringing in players based on reputation rather than long-term planning. He could afford good French players like Genevois and Tillous-Borde. A lot of his purchases were simply big names.

            • March 23rd 2012 @ 10:33pm
              Bakkies said | March 23rd 2012 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

              I don’t get why Clermont are criticised on this thread for hoarding foreign players. The bulk of the French squad are from Clermont and Toulouse. Traditional clubs like Biarritz and Perpignan are falling behind and in danger of relegation they should get the criticism for dragging the chain in development not Clermont. Toulouse are building up their team again as some are ageing (Servat, Jauzion, etc) they play a linking offload game which Montpellier are using but Montpellier doesn’t have the squad depth. Toulouse are still leading the Top 14.

              The England set up has been a disaster there is plenty of good talent in the AP (has been for some time) as soon as players get in the England team they get full of themselves and play poor rugby. England has a very strong under 20 squad and you have to be in denial if you don’t think that’s the case. England are the biggest underperformers in international rugby. They haven’t turned any of their 7s players in to test internationals. There is plenty of good attacking players in England yet the England team bar the last season under Martin Johnson are unimaginative in the backs. Chris Ashton barely got the ball in the 6 Nations

              • March 24th 2012 @ 3:03am
                Ben S said | March 24th 2012 @ 3:03am | ! Report

                Who have Clermont produced in recent seasons? Domingo, Fofana, Malzieu, Jacquet and Lapandry basically, and only Domingo, Malzieu and Fofana are Test players. For a club with their resources that is a very poor return. Just look at their new signings: Sivivatu, Byrne, King, Vosloo, Hines… Same applies to Toulouse. All the big French clubs do is bring in players from the lower clubs, like Picamoles and Parra. The production line isn’t there.

                Toulouse in Europe over the past few seasons have been very conservative by and large. This Gallic rugby is a myth.

                Players in the England set-up get ahead of themselves? How do you even qualify that? Sounds totally subjective and stereotypical to me.

                England does have a good youth system, and look at how many of them go on to play premiership rugby – the vast majority. That illustrates why they have a good system.You can only select 15 starters at Test level, however.

                The Sevens side isn’t used as a 15s development tool, hence the 7s contracts.

                England have tried to play good rugby, they’ve just been badly coached and selected, like a lot of Test sides. That’s not the same as ruining players.

              • March 24th 2012 @ 7:26am
                Ben S said | March 24th 2012 @ 7:26am | ! Report

                I’m just looking at the Bordeaux v Toulouse line-ups, Bakkies. Who have Toulouse developed in their XV? Doussain, and even he only joined the academy at 17. Nyanga came from Beziers, Picamoles from Montpellier, David from Bourgoign, Beauxis from Pau… with only Picamoles and Beauxis being French squad players. They’re doing very little for French rugby. Contrast that to Leicester, for example. From their matchday squad against London Irish they’ve developed Ben Youngs, Dan Cole, Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi. Basically all Test starters.

              • March 24th 2012 @ 11:42am
                Bakkies said | March 24th 2012 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                ”Who have Clermont produced in recent seasons? Domingo, Fofana, Malzieu, Jacquet and Lapandry basically, and only Domingo, Malzieu and Fofana are Test players. For a club with their resources that is a very poor return. Just look at their new signings: Sivivatu, Byrne, King, Vosloo, Hines… Same applies to Toulouse. All the big French clubs do is bring in players from the lower clubs, like Picamoles and Parra. The production line isn’t there.”
                Mate it’s called professionalism. No different to Queensland recruiting players from NSW and ACT to strengthen their squad. They have the budget and rugby program to lure players. Picamoles left Montpellier when they were in turmoil (now they are back on track but would you leave Toulouse to go back there…). No point in lurking around in clubs like Dax, Bourgoin and Beziers playing in the ProD2 who have no money and aspirations. Do you think Parra would of stuck around in Bourgoin with the club getting relegated for financial reasons? That’s no different to football really. The French clubs are more in to getting results.

                ”Players in the England set-up get ahead of themselves? How do you even qualify that? Sounds totally subjective and stereotypical to me.”

                cough. Cipriani, D Armitage, Danny Care, Balshaw (apples and oranges started his test career on fire but ended up as a player completely out of his depth), Ben Youngs all players who started their test careers with promise but where are they now… Look in to the latest accusations against Danny Care I would cut him off, the bloke won’t learn. David Strettle hasn’t reached his potential as a test player. Tom Varndell flunked as a test player

                I would nearly put Ben Foden in that category but his recent match against Ireland was an improvement on the dross he served up against Scotland, Italy and Wales. These blokes believe the press that is written about them. At least Farrell has a level head and his old man to mentor him.

                You go on about English clubs producing players but they still sign players from overseas and other AP clubs. Where do you think the majority of the Saracens starting line up come from then?

                ”England have tried to play good rugby, they’ve just been badly coached and selected, like a lot of Test sides. That’s not the same as ruining players.”

                Then why do players produce for their clubs but look so poor in an England shirt. Players not reaching their potential is a big problem in English rugby

                You sir are deluded.

              • March 24th 2012 @ 11:45am
                Bakkies said | March 24th 2012 @ 11:45am | ! Report

                ” Who have Toulouse developed in their XV? Doussain, and even he only joined the academy at 17. Nyanga came from Beziers, Picamoles from Montpellier, David from Bourgoign, Beauxis from Pau… with only Picamoles and Beauxis being French squad players. They’re doing very little for French rugby.”

                Toulouse doing very little for French rugby? What planet are you on? They have won the most Brennus and Heineken Cup titles. Turned players with potential in to test players and the press were calling for their coach to step up to coach the French side.

              • March 25th 2012 @ 11:44pm
                Ben S said | March 25th 2012 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

                Toulouse have produced whom recently? Who have they developed? Lamboley was a youth star, but has never progressed, neither did Michalak. Yann David isn’t tearing up any trees either. Simply buying in the occasional French starlet isn’t doing a great deal for the Test side.

                Will respond in greater depth to the lengthy response tonight. Busy atm.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 2:45am
                Ben S said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:45am | ! Report

                ‘cough. Cipriani, D Armitage, Danny Care, Balshaw (apples and oranges started his test career on fire but ended up as a player completely out of his depth), Ben Youngs all players who started their test careers with promise but where are they now… Look in to the latest accusations against Danny Care I would cut him off, the bloke won’t learn. David Strettle hasn’t reached his potential as a test player. Tom Varndell flunked as a test player’

                Cipriani and Delon Armitage are clowns – no argument from me, but we were talking about players being ruined by the England set-up. Cipriani suffered a terrible injury and was rushed back too soon. Danny Care has generally played well for England, but is clearly an immature young man. And as for judging him – innocent until proven guilty. Balshaw was a train wreck after the 2001 Lions tour, as was Ben Cohen. Varndell was probably never a Test player, and neither is David Strettle. That’s got nothing to do with England – they have failed to develop their games, and that happens at club level. I could name various players who never performed for the All Blacks under Henry. That doesn’t mean they were ruined by the All Black set-up. The same applies to lots of countries. It’s a simple fact of rugby that a lot of players aren’t capable of Test rugby.

                ‘You go on about English clubs producing players but they still sign players from overseas and other AP clubs. Where do you think the majority of the Saracens starting line up come from then?’

                Saracens is one club, and I’ve never denied that the AP has foreigners, but it’s not comparable to France. However, Saracens also has a very good academy structure, and is starting to produce some good young English players. But for the sake of argument compare Saracens to Gloucester, or Harlequins. There is no French comparison.

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2012 @ 7:19am
        Rugby Fan said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        The joke in Toulon is that Bastareaud looks like he’s having a great season because Steffon Armitage is a dead ringer for him, and it’s actually the English flanker who is doing all the work. Bastereaud has just changed his hair colour to red so that should help.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 7:29am
        nickoldschool said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        KPM, i dont disagree with you in that PSA and other coaches before him are responsible too. But I disagree when you say this is the ‘IDEAL’ system. To have so many top foreign players means that young French talent have less opporunity and game time, it’s pure mathematics. Look at England’s football team, same story.

        • March 23rd 2012 @ 7:59am
          kingplaymaker said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:59am | ! Report

          Fair enough nos: it will be interesting to see what difference the further reductions make in the coming season.

          • March 23rd 2012 @ 9:38pm
            Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

            kingplaymaker, who are these players who aren’t being selected? Simple question.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 8:43am
        Rugbug said | March 23rd 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Interesting KPM you have a similar take on France and their non selection of talent as you do the All Blacks.

    • March 23rd 2012 @ 4:55am
      Hellboy said | March 23rd 2012 @ 4:55am | ! Report

      Lies.

      In France,the LNR quota of maximum 21 foreigners on 35 pro contracts. (60%) since 2009.

      And neither Toulon or Stade Francais ever have over 21 foreigners, and very few clubs ever had less.

      Next season in 2012/2013, the quota will be 50% or 17 foreigners maximum, and all clubs will respect it.

      And 40% in 2013/2014, then the LNR would decrease it again.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 7:53am
        nickoldschool said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        Hellboy, I invite you to read LNR rules (sorry its in French but we are talking about French rugby) http://www.lnr.fr/IMG/pdf/Releve_CD_07022011.pdf

        True all clubs have 35 pro-contracts…BUT, these pro-contracts do not include (article 23):
        -medical covers
        -RWC covers
        -youths (‘contrats espoirs’)
        -players coming from some of these ‘training centres’.

        Which means that all clubs have actualy close to 45-50 players per season, not 35. Hence the huge number of foreign players. And yes, clubs like Toulon or stade Francais have around 20 foreign players. Just look at their roster.FYI George Smith has just been added to SF roster as ‘medical cover, hence outside this 35 pro-contracts rule.

        • March 23rd 2012 @ 6:41pm
          Hellboy said | March 23rd 2012 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

          As I’m french rugby fan,
          I think I know the JIFF rules. 😉

          Medical covers are just 3 months (or more depending of the injurie) gigs.
          World Cup covers were just gigs during the RWC, with the Top 14 during the RWC, how clubs with 8 or 10 players at the RWC were supposed to do ?

          Apoligies for the misunderstood : I thought the article was saying “Starting at 40 percent OF FOREIGNERS players in 2011-2012, the quota will increase to 60 percent in 2013-2014.” but in facts it’s correct :saying that “Starting at 40 percent JIFF players in 2011-2012, the quota will increase to 60 percent in 2013-2014.” My bad !

          By the way, the JIFF rule is totally RIDICULOUS.

          Armitage brothers (Steffon, Delon and Guy) are all JIFF as the spend enough time in rugby school in France before living to England.
          And clubs academies are all following Clermont path on recruiting 15 or 16 yo georgians or islanders to make them JIFF.
          Look at Toulouse recruiting for next season the young Vasil Kakovin from Agen academy too.
          Same bullshit as soccer.

          • March 24th 2012 @ 8:49am
            nickoldschool said | March 24th 2012 @ 8:49am | ! Report

            No worries HB, ppl often misread (or read too quickly) articles then jump at the writer for something he has not written. no harm done.

            To be honest i dunno if the JIFF are the right answer as as you point out, clubs are going to hire very young foreign players to make them jiff… On the other hand the LNR had to do something and having a similar ‘no foreigner’ (or 1-2)policy like we have here is a bit too extreme. wait and see i guess.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 7:55am
        The Other White Wendell said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:55am | ! Report

        Hellboy,
        you are putting facts in the story

    • March 23rd 2012 @ 8:12am
      Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      I think Stade has 21 foreign players exactly, with Smith making it 22. I think Toulon has roughly 20.

    • Roar Pro

      March 23rd 2012 @ 8:27am
      Football United said | March 23rd 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Don’t agree at all that it is killing french rugby. In fact as the worlds premier domestic competition, it is now france’s greatest asset with the majority of club rugby spending going through the top 14 as well as the rest of the worlds best way of developing talent due to SR’s closed shop policy.

      The french have 14 teams in their top division and 16 in the Pro D2, this means that imports are required to keep up high standards. now seeing how they have this large amount of teams, if a ‘quality’ young player can’t break into one of these clubs and get weekly exposure to professional rugby then they will never be international standard anyway so no harm is done.

      KPM is also correct in saying it is the ideal system as their youth system develops both local and foreign players, providing much needed competition for places. Again if they can’t compete in these squads they would never be able to compete on the international stage.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 9:47am
        Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        High standards? There is a huge gulf between the top and bottom teams in the Top 14, and aesthetically it is by and large very poor viewing. Surely it’s a glib position that if a young player can’t immediately displace a foreign import that he’ll never be a Test player? Most imports are brought in on the basis that they are close to the finished article, hence they have far less room for improvement than a young academy player. Further, some players develop more slowly than others. Ben Morgan never made it in the English system and now look at him.

        Surely if it was an ideal situation then there would be better young French players out there? Where are they? The French age group sides are hardly world beaters either.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 12:26pm
        nickoldschool said | March 23rd 2012 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        F.U, killing is probably too strong but definitely slowing down young players development. A 20 yo fly-half isnt going to send Wilkinson or Giteau on the bench. True, they will learn a lot at training but wont have that much game time. Cruden, Jane, Bleyendaal etc and even Carter before, have all been given starting spots in top NZ teams when they were young. If the likes of Wilko, O’Driscoll, D’arcy, Gitea etc had been around, they would not have had a chance that early in their career. I dont like the protectionism that we have in Oz or NZ but its fair to say that it helps develop young talent (compare to France I mean). And if you are also into football you must agree its also affecting England football.

        The fact that France’s fly-half during the 2011 RWC was a n9 (parra) is telling. Look at NZ: they won it with their n3 or n4 choice at n10.

        • Roar Pro

          March 23rd 2012 @ 7:48pm
          Football United said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

          If you are going to use the football comparison then england is flawed in it’s actual youth development system by not concentrating on technical development and a more modern tactical approach rather than the amount of internationals in it’s senior squad holding players back. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have no restrictions on internationals (save for the very lax non EU player restrictions) and yet their teams are dominating internationally due to their superior local youth development.

          The same applies to the top 14, if the locals are good enough. they will get a game. If not, too bad because their are no free rides. Unlike SR teams, french clubs and their academies pump out players and there is enough games in a European season to rotate players through to rest the stars and give a youngster an opportunities to stamp their name on positions.

          • March 23rd 2012 @ 9:34pm
            Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

            So if a local player isn’t automatically better than an older foreign import then he’ll never be good enough? So what happened to Mermoz then?

            Again, who are these youngsters?

            • March 23rd 2012 @ 10:37pm
              Bakkies said | March 23rd 2012 @ 10:37pm | ! Report

              Mermoz? Too many injuries

              • March 24th 2012 @ 3:05am
                Ben S said | March 24th 2012 @ 3:05am | ! Report

                The point is that Mermoz didn’t get a place at Toulouse and went on to Perpignan and became a respected Test player. Is he a bad player because he couldn’t usurp Fritz or Jauzion? No.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 12:38pm
        Nathan Rickard said | March 23rd 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        World’s premier domestic competition? are you on crack? i watch it on Eurosport or whatever channel it is on Foxtel and it is excruciating viewing. too much forward dominant play and endless kicking. reminds me of some aussie super rugby teams…

        • Roar Pro

          March 23rd 2012 @ 7:41pm
          Football United said | March 23rd 2012 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

          name me a domestic competition then that has better crowds, bigger names, more revenue, higher general interest and has the capacity for a system of promotion and relegation all the way down to the amateur level.

          • March 23rd 2012 @ 9:36pm
            Ben S said | March 23rd 2012 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

            Still dross to watch though.

            • March 24th 2012 @ 8:33pm
              Sircoolalot said | March 24th 2012 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

              Better than the Pro 12 though, now that is a seriously crap league

        • March 23rd 2012 @ 10:54pm
          Bakkies said | March 23rd 2012 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

          The French pride themselves on forward play unlike Australia. As for kicking, McKenzie created a kicking culture at Stade Francais and it set them back 3 years. Bordeaux, Clermont,Toulouse, Montpellier play attacking rugby. Biarritz and Perpignan are capable too of it. The Top 14 like the AP is attritional and you will get plenty of dour slogfests as teams try to crack HEC spots or avoid relagation it’s the nature of the beast. There is a lot of dour Rugby in the cold damp, wet winter months. The past three years games have been effected by snow. It’s very difficult to get away wins in the Top 14 so a lot of teams have that mentality where they won’t front up away from home. Teams have something to fight for all season long unlike Super Rugby where a handful of teams are out of contention with two months left in the competition. The gap between the top and bottom teams is not different to the AP where teams like Newcastle have no hope against the likes of Leicester and Northampton. Don’t forget there are a lot of underperforming teams at the bottom of the Top 14 such is the depth of teams competing for HEC and Finals spots. Biarritz, Bayonne and Perpignan have some good players. Bordeaux have proven you can compete well on a low budget and shorter preparation time. Don’t forget they weren’t in the top 2 in the ProD2 last season

          The French mentality is very different to a lot of other countries. They don’t travel well in general mind you they are more likely to get a win in NZ unlike the Wallabies. If they don’t front up they will fold. When they do they are hard to stop. The players lost respect for their coach Lievremont who was constantly dropping players and berating them in the press. That’s no good for team morale. With so much changing in personnel it’s very difficult for a player to build themselves in to the side. Philippe Saint Andre will lose his players if he goes down the same route. He doesn’t encourage individuality in the side.

          • March 24th 2012 @ 3:07am
            Ben S said | March 24th 2012 @ 3:07am | ! Report

            French rugby is a kickfest. Even Simon Shaw said he was surprised how slow and attritional it was. John Danielli’s book says all there is to on the subject.

          • March 24th 2012 @ 9:02am
            nickoldschool said | March 24th 2012 @ 9:02am | ! Report

            You are very right Bakkies. The french have always thought that rugby is first and foremost won up-front (a bit like in SA). Its quite true but i think more and more coaches at national and club level are asking the backs to play a very conservative rugby, and thats the problem. France have talent in the backs, they just have to be unleashed.but thats another issue

            • March 24th 2012 @ 11:58am
              Bakkies said | March 24th 2012 @ 11:58am | ! Report

              The problem is the coaches not the Top 14. McKenzie won like 7 seven straight when he started at Stade Francais then he brought in the Waratahs style kicking game plan and ruined players like Beauxis (who was only 21 at the time) and Hernandez. Both players haven’t been the same since. Coaches like Berbezier and Saint Andre are known for their conservatism. Brunel finally unleashed Perpignan and they were unbelievable for a year or two playing total rugby since he left they are back to serving up rubbish. He is trying to turn the Italians around but will need time. Galthie gets his teams playing attacking French style rugby (the French flair is kind of a myth as they love forward play and scrummaging as much as the English) and should be the next coach. They have fast tracked ex players in to coaches without them getting experience (Ellisalde, Pelous, Dominic, etc) and hasn’t worked really to plan.

              Against Wales the French players in the first half didn’t have a clue what the game plan was. Backs were running lateral and into each other. Players that don’t spend much time together need cohesion and the players looked lost (and Saint Andre was a back!) when they just went out and played Rugby in their own individual style they looked a lot better. People love to blame the Top 14 but it’s the coaches and the players are to blame not the set up. The players should think for themselves like they used to in France. The forwards had more direction under Lievremont, players cleaned out in pairs and threes, attacked the breakdown and there has been none of that under Saint Andre. They have stopped offloading and counterattacking as a unit. Had Lievremont stuck to a set side rather than constantly rotating they would have of won the RWC and this discussion wouldn’t have happen. He stuck a rod in his own back (much like Deans is with his selections). The French supporters love to pick on Laporte and Mackay but they played pretty good Rugby under them with the same set up as now and were competing against a much stronger English side.

              • March 25th 2012 @ 11:47pm
                Ben S said | March 25th 2012 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

                You can’t say McKenzie has ruined anybody. Hernandez ha suffered from injuries and has always been a kicking player. Same with Beauxis. It’s like saying Johnson ruined Cipriani.

              • March 26th 2012 @ 11:08am
                Bakkies said | March 26th 2012 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                If you wached Hernandez play for Stade Francais and Argentina pre McKenzie he was a good attacking player. As soon as McKenzie got hold of Hernandez all he did was run in to contact or take drop goal shots from halfway. Sure he has had injuries put he will never get his attacking flair back at his age. Beauxis fell in to the same boat but still has time. He was only young when McKenzie took charge of him. Instead of working on his game he was turned in to a poor man’s Hernandez.

                No one would suggest that Johnson ruined Cipriani. In fact I would say he did him a favour.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 12:23am
                Colin N said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:23am | ! Report

                “No one would suggest that Johnson ruined Cipriani. In fact I would say he did him a favour.”

                I agree he did him a favour, but there have been plenty of suggestions that Johnson ruined Cipriani which is ridiculous.

                Re: McKenzie, I always had the idea that Stade Francais have played negative rugby in the 00’s. But when McKenzie came in, he tried to change that style and make them a more expansive side. It didn’t work because, apart from the odd exception, they didn’t have the cattle.

                As for Hernandez, in 2007, before McKenzie ‘got hold of him,’ he basically kicked Argentina to the World Cup semi-final. In fact, he tried to play more expansively against South Africa and was caught with his pants down.

                Wonderful talent with exceptional skills, but I just think he’s never quite understood what his best strengths are and how much damage he can do with ball in hand.

                He’s a bit like Frans Steyn in that sense who got a bit too carried away that he could goal-kick from 60 metres and kick the ball from hand over 80.

    • March 23rd 2012 @ 8:53am
      Tiger1 said | March 23rd 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      My support lies with Brive, I was born there and my mothers family is from there. I couldn’t give a stuff about the French national team. I remember many French players saying that they would put winning the Top14 ahead of winning a world cup.

      • March 23rd 2012 @ 2:41pm
        Markus said | March 23rd 2012 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

        That’s exactly what English football fans say. By sheer coincidence their national team are a mismanaged mess who can never win a World Cup as well.

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