The sounds of thunder in the French rugby autumn sky. A month after the Blues were knocked out of the World Cup, in which he was instrumental in their return to France, Bernard Laporte is set to return to a club that has been racking up some alarming performances, beaten at Perpignan this Saturday (23-16). .
The former French Rugby Federation coach and president will succeed Philippe Senandre as director of rugby at MHR and reunite with the Franco-Syrian businessman with whom he was convicted in the first instance of corruption and misuse of corporate funds. Exclusively at JDD, Mohed Altrad explains and reasons for this impressive decision.
JDD. What sporting assessment have you made since the resumption of the Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR) Top 14?
Mohed Altrad. Our club is going through one of the most difficult starts to a season in its recent history, if not the most difficult season. Our first French title in 2022 remains my fondest rugby memory. However, the second part of last season was very difficult for our players, and the beginning of this one is not easier either. Despite the renewed workforce, we have noticed that something is missing in this team.
Do you think your locker room has contributed to these poor performances?
I know that my players and staff are always the most motivated to give it their all on the pitch. I have full faith in our team to carry the colors of MHR high, but it lacks the bond, the soul, the spirit that resides deep within only the greatest leaders. We thought about it a lot with the management of the club, with all the employees, and the decision was made to look for this person who could bring us this soul.
However, you assured Midi Libre a few days ago that the staff will not change…
But it does not change: it is reinforced. My obsession has always been to put the club in the best position to progress and win. It was this vision that motivated me when I recruited Jake White in 2015, Vern Cotter in 2017 or Philippe Sanandre in 2020. Today we decided to look for one of the best experts on French world rugby.
Bernard Laporte is a culture of victory, leadership, team spirit. These are all rugby values we hold dear. He embodies the soul that our team needs. We therefore decided to appoint Bernard Laporte as Director of Rugby at MHR. When one of the best French managers is available, it’s a unique sporting opportunity, we couldn’t pass it up.
Laporte understands the complexity of the situation and shares our vision.
Did you think long before making this decision? Was there much discussion?
I repeat: I will make available all means to guarantee MHR’s sporting success. The appointment of Bernard Laporte aims to instill the spirit of champions, transform our club and drive it to greatness. Bernard Laporte understands the complexity of the situation and shares our vision. Our recent discussions have revealed the opportunities he could use even in the most difficult periods to turn the club around.
What will its exact role be?
He will exclusively oversee and coordinate the sporting aspects of the club. His role will be to provide his knowledge to improve the performance of the team. We also expect his aura and natural leadership to help us regain team cohesion.
Can you elaborate on the evolution of the MHR org chart?
The arrival of Bernard Laporte is a transfer of power. As Director of Rugby, he will exclusively oversee and coordinate the sporting aspects of the club.
Philippe Senandre, who has distanced himself in this area, will continue to support the club with the overall management. He will deal with “regal” matters and relations with the authorities.
Do you realize that this decision could lead to new controversy after the conviction you both appealed?
What has always driven me to the MHR is the sporty, just the sporty. My obsession has always been to put the club in the best position to win. Apparently Bernard Laporte has told me that he has been in contact with the High Authority for the Transparency of Political Life (HATPP) and at the stage of the criminal proceedings, which are still ongoing, the club can hire Bernard Laporte for the whole sporting aspect.
Where are we with the procedure? What is your state of mind?
I have no comment on the procedure being appealed. My state of mind is to focus on the club and its sporting urgency.
What is your opinion of French Rugby and its treatment of you in the context of this procedure?
Basically, what hurt me the most about this affair was the political turmoil surrounding it. Those who took the opportunity questioned my commitment to our sport. I was devastated that my almost 15-year commitment to French rugby was called into question. My dedication to this club that I love so much, as well as to the French XV, no longer needs to be proven. The absolute urgency today is to ensure the best possible recovery for MHR. The hiring of Bernard Laporte goes squarely in that direction.
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