Guy Novès replaced by Jacques Brunel as French head coach

Guy Noves. FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

The French Rugby Federation has replaced head coach Guy Novès after less than two years in charge, with Bordeaux-Bègles' Jacques Brunel set to replace him.

Former Italy coach Brunel, who had been touted for the role, will become national team head coach after this weekend's Top 14 trip to Stade Francais, FFR president Bernard Laporte told a press conference on Wednesday.

"Several people could have aspired to be coach of the XV of France," said Laporte, "but Jacques Brunel, I know him well. He has the experience. He is also a person capable of taking on this heavy responsibility."

The decision means that Novès has become the first-ever head coach of the French national rugby side to lose his job, with 63-year-old Brunel signing on through to the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The writing was on the wall after the 2017 November internationals capped a run of six defeats and a draw. His final record in charge of France stands at seven wins, 13 defeats and a draw in 22 matches.

"It's a painful situation for Guy and also for us," Laporte admitted, as he thanked the former Toulouse coach, who won 10 French domestic titles and four European Cups in 22 years in charge at Stade Ernest Wallon.

"But we couldn't go on like this any more. We made this decision, which was not easy, in the interests of French rugby."

Although the FFR president confirmed that Yannick Bru and Jean-Frédéric Dubois have also cleared out their desks at France's Marcoussis training ground as part of a major coaching clear-out, he insisted that no decision had been taken as to who will replace them.

"He [Brunel] will decide his own staff," Laporte told journalists.

Several Top 14 coaches have been linked to staff jobs in the national set-up in recent days, as speculation surrounding Novès' future in the France hotseat intensified.

Names mentioned included Toulon's Fabien Galthie, Clermont's Franck Azema and La Rochelle's Patrice Collazo.

The latter pair have since publicly taken themselves out of contention for jobs under Brunel, with speculation now suggesting that Galthie could join Lyon's forwards coach Sebastien Bruno, supported by Julien Bonnaire, in a new-look France coaching team.

"Top 14 coaches .... will come together before each tournament," added Laporte. "They will sit around a table to exchange ideas and involve everyone around the national side.

"It's a win-win for the clubs and the French team. We can no longer have clubs on one side and the XV of France on the other."

Earlier, Serge Blanco said French rugby's problems ran deeper than the coaching set-up: "We have to ask ourselves the real questions, namely whether we are capable of having players capable of meeting the challenge," he told French broadcaster franceinfo. "The discomfort is deep and has lasted for several years."