Rugby: Lievremont succeeds Laporte as France coach

TARBES, France - Former international flanker Marc Lievremont has been appointed France coach, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) said on today.

Lievremont succeeds Bernard Laporte, who joined the French government on Monday as a junior minister for sport.

Laporte, in charge for eight years, had planned to step down after the World Cup which ended last weekend.

France finished fourth in the tournament after being knocked out by England in the semifinals.

Lievremont, 38, won 23 caps between 1995 and 1999. As a coach, he has guided Dax back to the French first division.

He will be assisted by former France wing Emile Ntamack and Didier Retiere, who will be in charge of the backs and forwards respectively.

The 37-year-old Ntamack made 46 appearances for France from 1994 to 2000. He and Retiere were joint coaches of the France Under-21 side that won the world title last year.

"A page has just been turned with the World Cup and we want to write a new one with these three men," FFR president Bernard Lapasset told reporters after the announcement which followed a meeting of the ruling body's executive committee in the south-western town of Tarbes.

Lievremont was handed a four-year deal and will work together with Jo Maso, who stays on as team manager.

"What we liked about Marc Lievremont is that he is modest, perceptive and competent," Lapasset said.

"Marc Lievremont is a real player, a winner who never lets go and he knows the players in the French championship well," said Jean-Claude Skrela, the technical director of French rugby.

"He was the ideal candidate for what is a turning point for French rugby."

Other coaches were considered, among them Sale's Philippe Saint-Andre, Fabien Galthie of Stade Francais and Toulouse's Guy Noves.

France need to undertake a rebuilding process with several players, among them hooker and captain Raphael Ibanez, expected to retire from the international game.

The new coaching staff also need to define a playing style. Laporte faced criticism after France concentrated on defending and kicking instead of relying on their trademark flair during the World Cup.

- REUTERS

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