FFR President Bernard Laporte made Joe Schmidt his number one choice to coach France
FFR President Bernard Laporte has said that he made Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt his number one target to replace Jacques Brunel after this year's Rugby World Cup.
French rugby clubs voted against having a foreign coach for the national team in a referendum on Friday with 59% of clubs opposing the idea in a referendum voted on by amateur clubs.
Bernard Laporte, President of the FFR, said of the result :"It's important for me to give the floor to the clubs. For two years, the FFR has taken a turning point in democratization. We have installed direct democracy, and the referendum to associate clubs with important decisions.
"The XV of France belongs first to amateur rugby clubs that train our future international players. The preparation of the 2023 World Cup, which we are proud to have won the organization in France, is a great opportunity to associate them with the choice of the future coach.
"The question of the French or foreign nationality of the coach of the XV of France is sometimes a debate for initiates and enthusiasts. To define this orientation, the clubs were 59% not to wish a breeder of foreign nationality. I welcome this democratic expression and of course, I will respect this choice. We can move forward serenely to build the necessary conditions with the goal of winning the World Cup in 2023."
Brunel will step down from his role after this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan with the FFR still to appoint a successor, however, Laporte told French-Monégasque radio station RMC that Schmidt was his number one target if the referendum had passed.
"I saw a lot of people talking for me," Laporte said on the Super Moscato Show on RMC.
"My number one choice was not Warren Gatland, it was was Joe Schmidt because he speaks French like you and I. He coached Clermont, I saw the five (foreign coaches) but I did not engage with any of them. There were two who told me that they could not, I went into discussions but I said: "We will hold a referendum. You are a possibility, are you interested? "There are some that I saw a second time."
Schmidt announced that he will retire from coaching after the 2019 World Cup and Andy Farrell will succeed him as Ireland boss. The New Zealander said at the time that his decision to step down was based on a desire to spend more time with his family.
“I have decided to finish coaching and will prioritise family commitments after the Rugby World Cup in 2019,” Schmidt said in a statement issued by the IRFU.
“I feel that Irish rugby is in good hands. The management and players have been incredible to work with and the tremendous support we have had, particularly at home in the Aviva, but wherever we have travelled, has been uplifting.”