French rugby is close to rock bottom. Despite the highs of being announced as hosts for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, 2017 will still go down as a low point for Les Bleus. As a result, Guy Novès’ future as France head coach is looking bleak.
Draw Against Japan the Tipping Point
France’s final test match of the autumn – the 23-23 draw against Japan, could ultimately cost Novès his job. The Brave Blossoms were inches away from inflicting their first ever victory over France.
Having levelled the scores six minutes from time, Yu Tamura’s regulation conversion should have landed. Fortunately for the men in blue, a draw was the next best thing. Cue the boos and jeers from the Paris crowd.
The result compounded France’s dismal autumn international performances. A double loss to New Zealand followed by the one-point loss to South Africa. It was France’s first November international series without a win in over six years.
Novès has seemingly followed the same path as former head coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
The vast amount of players used during Novès’ nineteen matches in charge hasn’t quite reached the level during Saint-Andre’s tenure. Saint-Andre was ridiculed for his 17 half-back combinations and the 83 players utilised during his time at the top.
For Novès, he still does not have a first pick half-back combination. His time as head coach, the same as England’s Eddie Jones, has involved nine half back combinations and over 60 players tested.
England have shown that increasing player numbers does not necessarily equate to winning performances. Jones’ core group of players has not changed and now boasts a win percentage of 95. Novès currently sits at 28% for winning results. Stability looks to be an obvious pre-cursor for success.
Dismal 2017 for Les Bleus
Being halfway through the World Cup cycle, time is now against France to stabilise a core group expected to perform in 2019.
The results of 2017 will not hold them in good stead. Only three of their eleven tests came as victories.
That followed a disappointing summer campaign in South Africa. However it led French Rugby President Bernard Laporte to renew his confidence in Novès. Whether he can do that again in time for the Six Nations is looking more and more unlikely.
Novès’ future is likely to be decided in the short term. France’s next fixture will be at home to Ireland in the opening weekend of the 2018 Six Nations. Laporte will want someone who can come in and immediately improve confidence. Then it will be a case of taking one game at a time and building in time for the World Cup.
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