PARIS – Former France players Julien Bonnaire, Sebastien Bruno and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde were on Wednesday unveiled as new coach Jacques Brunel's three assistants.
Bonnaire will take charge of the line-out, Bruno the scrum and Elissalde the backline, while consultants Philippe Doussy and Jean-Marc Bederede will help out with kicking and defence respectively.
The nomination of Bonnaire, Bruno and Elissalde is a strong statement from French federation head Bernard Laporte, under whom the trio all played internationally for Les Bleus when he was head coach between 2000-7 and Brunel was his assistant.
The trio all took part in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Laporte's last foray as France coach, when the team finished fourth.
Former scrum-half Elissalde and flanker Bonnaire were both also starters in the memorable 20-18 quarter-final victory over favoured New Zealand.
Laporte had sought to bolster Brunel's backroom staff with some of the cream of French coaches from the Top 14, but the refusal of leading names such as Patrice Collazo, Franck Azema, Fabien Galthie and Pierre Mignoni to quit their jobs meant the two men now running the national team had to cast their net a little further.
Ex-hooker Bruno, assistant to Mignoni at Lyon since 2015, remains a Lyon coach, made available just for the Six Nations, while Bonnaire and Elissalde were without a club, the former only having hung up his boots last year and the latter having been brought in to coach the France under-18 team.
“This innovative backroom staff mixes skills present at the hearts of our clubs and those coming from the federal set-up,” the federation said. “It will be kept in place and boosted through to the 2019 World Cup. It is the first step for French rugby to rally around the French team.”
Brunel, 63, quit Bordeaux-Begles to take over from Guy Noves who last month became the first French coach to be sacked after a meagre seven wins from 22 matches alongside 14 defeats and a humiliating home draw with 2019 World Cup hosts Japan.
Under Noves, France lost six consecutive games between June and November this year, a string of results too bad for Laporte to accept.
The Brunel era kicks off when France open their Six Nations campaign on February 3 against Ireland, a match for which the squad will assemble on January 21.