French rugby clubs have voted against having a foreigner as their next head coach, according to a referendum result announced on Friday.
The referendum took place between Tuesday and Thursday and saw 59 percent of amateur clubs vote 'no' when asked if the next head coach of the France national team should be a non-French citizen. Each French amateur rugby club had one vote to cast and the turnout was 51 percent.
The France national side has never had a non-French head coach, but given the team's recent form French Rugby are desperately seeking ways to improve performances before the country hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
After Warren Gatland's Wales won the Grand Slam at this year's Six Nations, French Rugby president Bernard Laporte expressed a desire to secure the New Zealander as France's next coach following the World Cup this autumn, but the result of this week's referendum has rendered that option seemingly impossible.
In a statement released after the result was announced, Laporte said: "The XV of France belongs first and foremost to the amateur rugby clubs that train our future international players. The preparation of the 2023 World Cup, which we are proud to have won in France, is a great opportunity to involve them in the choice of the future coach.
"I welcome this democratic decision and, of course, I will respect that choice. We can move forward calmly to build the necessary conditions with the objective of winning the World Cup in 2023."
Jacques Brunel is the current head coach of France's men's national team, having replaced Guy Noves in December 2017, but Laporte recently said that a new coach would succeed Brunel after the 2019 World Cup. The next coach is to be announced before the tournament in Japan commences.