Tuesday 26 March 2019

'They have a load of challenges' - Paul O'Connell identifies two important reasons why French rugby has fallen behind

Paul O'Connell is the forwards coach at Stade Francais
Paul O'Connell is the forwards coach at Stade Francais
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Munster and Ireland legend Paul O'Connell feels financial priorities and language barriers are having a negative impact on French rugby.

France have tumbled to 10th in the world rankings, have lost 16 of the their last 20 international Tests and were heavily criticised for the manner of their 44-8 mauling at the hands of England in the last round of the Six Nations.

The financial might of the French Top 14 has seen resulted in an influx of southern hemisphere talent who are earning huge sums.

The power of the domestic game is seen by many as detrimental to the international team.

Speaking exclusively to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi, O'Connell revealed that paying big wages for top players can often result in other areas of preparation missing out on funding.

"They have a load of challenges," he said.

"People talk about the French culture and they won the soccer World Cup playing really disciplined football so, they can do it the exact same as any other country provided the conditions are right.

"One of the things for me is that we have four provinces; it's a nice small pool, it's run by the Union, the international coaches get to see the players an awful lot, the international coaches get to influence an awful lot of what goes on in the clubs and provinces, the national setup invests in lots of different things, like nutritionists for the provinces.

"Munster, I think have a part-time nutritionist with the the academy and a full-time nutritionist with the senior setup and there is a nutritionist with the Irish team.

"We don't have a nutritionist in Stade Francais for the players.

"It's because I think there's a big battle for wages in France and there's probably money there for wages for the players and maybe other things get cut a little bit.

"A lot of things we assume are normal in Ireland like the amount of analysis laptops that might be available for players, or the amount of physios or, as I say, the availability of a nutritionist.

"That's one of things I think that probably holds them back a bit.

"If the club can't afford something, they can't afford something. It's the way it is."

O'Connell also feels that the influence top class coaches have had on the rugby culture here has not been felt by our Gallic cousins.

"One of the things as well is that, I think an Irish rugby players is the exact same as a French rugby player but the outside influences in coaching that have made a massive difference here haven't taken effect in France," he added.

"You can go all the way back to Warren Gatland, you can go all the way back to John Langford coming into Munster and the effect he had, right up through Alan Gaffney in Leinster, Matt Williams in Leinster, Rob Penney in Munster, Michael Cheika - what a difference he made.

"Some of the S&C coaches that have come in, Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell, Joe Schmidt - they don't have the same effect in France as they do here because of the language.

"That is a massive difference, They don't have the same effect on the players and they don't have the same effect on the different coaches around them.

"There's plenty of coaches around Ireland now in Ireland, and you can see they have little Joe Schmidt-isms, Stuart Lancaster does these training sessions where he's mic'ed up so loads of Leinster schools have little Stuart Lancaster-isms and I'd have little bits of Joe and Andy Farrell stuff in what I do and Simon Easterby.

"England; Eddie Jones, Scotland; Vern Cotter, Wales; Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards.

"A lot of the top class coaching that we've managed to harness hasn't taken effect (in France)."

Online Editors

The Throw-In: Dublin cop criticism, Limerick build their aura and Cork's decline continues

In association with Allianz

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport