In the closing of its accounts for the past season (2017-2018), the French Rugby Federation has listed "Four exceptional events" which weigh heavily on his finances. The last concerns "The change of staff of the XV of France" for which about 2 million have been provisioned. This "Sports decision assumed to put the XV of France in order of march" dates back to December 2017, when the president of the French Rugby Federation, Bernard Laporte, announced that Guy Novès, coach of the XV of France, and his deputies Jean-Frédéric Dubois and Yannick Bru, were relieved of their functions. "We felt that Guy was no longer the man of the situation," Bernard Laporte was released.

An abrupt end after two years in office. Guy Novès took the reins of the French team in November 2015, after a calamitous World Cup for the Blues which ended with a bitter setback against the All Blacks in the quarter-finals (62-13). Pierre Camou, then president of the FFR, had bet on this coach to the glorious winners (ten titles of champion of France and four European Cups with Toulouse Stadium) to restore the blazon of the Blues and prepare for the World cup of 2019. A climate of trust prevailed between Pierre Camou, venerable leader of the French rugby, and Guy Novès, who finally reached the position of national coach after 22 seasons spent as a coach of the Stadium. An idyll that lasted only twelve months, until the election of Bernard Laporte to the presidency of the FFR in December 2016.

During the election campaign against Camou, Laporte had many times reiterated his desire to keep Novès in his post. But the relations between the two men did not suggest a long collaboration. They had the opportunity to challenge, and to hang on, when Bernard Laporte was the coach of the French Stadium and Guy Novès that of Toulouse. In 1999, Laporte was named coach of the Blues and had to deal with the coach of the club that provided the most international XV de France. "He [Novès] has never been tender with the France team. He has often barred the road of breeders. In Toulouse, we could not go to see the training sessions. We must not forget all that. I have nothing against his appointment, but he has not always been consistent with the coaches, thus entrusted Laporte with RMC in 2015.

"Taken for an idiot"

Relations between Laporte and Novès have further deteriorated with the sports results of 2017. At the end of a suitable tournament that sees the Blues finish in third place, a series of defeats begins: the Blues fall three times heavily in Africa South, then bow home to New Zealand and are beaten again by South Africans. On 25 November, the inauguration of the U-Arena in Nanterre leads to a draw against Japan. A cons-performance that marks the end of the Novès era, two years during which the Blues have won only 7 of their 21 games. Laporte entrusts an audit on the state of the XV of France to its vice-president Serge Simon, who had several disputes with Novès during the previous months. Thirty days later, the coach is dismissed for "serious misconduct", being publicly criticized for the deterioration of ties between the FFR and clubs.

This is the exact nature of this fault that will be debated this Thursday before the tribunal of Toulouse. Guy Novès claims 2.9 million euros to the FFR, an amount that includes the remaining salaries, compensation for non-pecuniary damage and many unpaid overtime. In an interview last week at World, he does not hide his sense of anger towards those who have him "Taken for an idiot". He has experienced his dismissal as a profound injustice and he hopes that the decision of the court, which will be held for one to two months, will allow him to finally move on. Today, 65 years old, this former rugby player claims to fight to succeed in washing his honor.

Read also The portrait of Guy Novès in Libération in March 2018

The FFR, which has reached an agreement with former assistants Bru and Dubois, fears, she, the financial consequences of the Novès case. The legal battle before the labor courts will focus around the contract of Guy Novès. Me Joseph Aguera, a lawyer for the FFR, says that this document "Contains a number of anomalies" and he will try to obtain his requalification in CDI, so as to reduce the amount of the indemnities to be paid. It will also endeavor to show that the dismissal of Novès was not "premeditated" and that it was not related to the disappointing results of the Blues. In sporting terms, the departure of Novès has, in any case, not had the desired effects since his successor, Jacques Brunel, has an even lower record of 3 wins in 13 games. The last defeat is still fresh, the Blues having heavily dropped Sunday in England (44-8). Failing to recover "In working order", they continue to retreat.

Olivier Bras

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