Guy Novès has lambasted his former employers at the French Rugby Federation (FFR), insisting he would have been given time to build a side for the 2019 Rugby World Cup had he been England coach.
Ten days after he was replaced by Jacques Brunel as France boss, Novès broke his silence and told French weekly Journal Du Dimanche: “I cannot understand why I will never be able to achieve the goals we set in 2016 when I took office.
“It’s about building a game plan and a group of players to perform, not immediately, but in preparation for the 2019 World Cup — as some teams, like England, have been able to do.”
Novès replaced Philippe Saint-Andre as manager of France at the same time as Eddie Jones took over from Stuart Lancaster as England coach. But the Frenchman’s record of seven wins in 22 matches pales in comparison to Jones’ 22 victories from 23.
Novès was, however, outraged over criticism of his management style: “I’ve been a manager for 25 years … The support I still receive today from the players I’ve selected shows that … [I am] appreciated by them.”
Novès said he learned he was to be removed from his post via the media, and vowed to fight serious misconduct charges levelled against him by the FFR. One of the key claims in the allegations is that the former coach, along with lieutenants Yannick Bru and Jeff Dubois, failed to liaise with Top 14 clubs.
He said: “It shocks me. I have always opened up [France training ground] Marcoussis to the whole of French rugby whenever possible.
“Bernard Laporte seems to be saying I am responsible for a lack of relations between the clubs and the Federation and that they must now be re-established as a matter of urgency. This is perfectly false.”
Novès, who took charge of Les Bleus after 22 years at Toulouse, added: “When Laporte was coach [of France], I didn’t see him at Toulouse, even though the club was the main provider of players to the French national team.”
The recently axed coach believes an audit commissioned by the FFR President following France’s abysmal November internationals, “was hijacked from its original purpose” to “serve as justification for the decision taken against me.”
And he pointed the finger of blame at the FFR for the ill-judged decision to play the All Blacks twice in four days during the series.
“I told [FFR vice-president] Serge Simon several months earlier that this game should not be played,” he said. “Today, it’s coming back on me, but the FFR that imposed it. It doesn’t match high-level rugby as I see it.”