We decided to pop into France and chat to one of the rugby agents who looks after a lot of South Africa and French stars among many. We spoke to Damien Dussault who was willing to talk about Guy Noves, the international team, the residency rule and the influx of players to France and abroad.
BC – Hi Damien, how are you this season?
DD – Hi Benedict. I am very well, thank you. As busy as usual, but it is all very positive.
BC – What is the vibe and feeling in France since Guy Noves has taken over?
DD – I think since our national team took a hiding against the All Blacks during the last World Cup the pressure has come down around “Les Bleus”. Nobody expects them to be successful in a short space of time.
I personally want to be positive as a new generation of players are coming through and it takes a bit of time to get them to play together. Guy Novès has won everything with Toulouse over the past 22 years. Why wouldn’t he succeed with the national team? So let’s give them a bit of time and we’ll see.
BC – Do you think he will improve the style of play, bring in quality young players and bring a recognisable positive culture or some form of selection consistency?
DD – Guy Novès is a winner. Everybody in French rugby knows about that. No doubt he wants to keep on winning. But he is also the manager that won the most titles in France while playing running rugby. I hope to see some enthusiasm on the pitch.
There are plenty of new capped players. Again we need to give them a bit of time to learn to play together. Next year same time we’ll know if the job has been done correctly or not.
BC – You are an agent and represent some of France and South Africa’s biggest stars. Players will never stop coming abroad. There is a strong financial incentive and a better lifestyle. How big an influx do you expect in the coming season (Do you think the numbers will increase)?
DD – I don’t think the influx will be that big this season. Usually the year after the World Cup it is difficult for players to leave their country especially if they have international ambitions. They have to wait for the new national coach to make his first calls. So they decide to stay at least one more year in their country.
There will always be a few but not as much as 2013.Maybe in 2017. Look at the Springboks they don’t know yet who’s going to coach them in June… It is difficult for players to go abroad without having that information.
BC – You can see there is lots of talk in the media about a possible change in residency rule. It is now a worry that southern hemisphere exports will flood the northern hemisphere and we could very much see ‘Barbarian country sides’? Your take on this?
DD – Well it is a difficult one as an agent. I personally think you should play for the country you are born in. But the game has gone professional. Look at players that got informed in South Africa that they were too small and they have later been capped by other countries.
It is more philosophical than about rugby I think. Up until now in France, not so many clubs approach agents to ask for project players. It is more done in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. But also because they have less depth in terms of number of players. I don’t think we need that in France. We probably should focus on our young talents.
BC – Guilhem Guirado has been appointed the captain of France. In the last five games he has been one of the best French players if not in the Six Nations. What is your take on the player?
DD – Guilhem Guirado is a very good player. No doubt about that. I don’t know him enough to judge his captaincy abilities. I see Guy Novès confirmed him as a captain until 2019. I think 4 years is very long and a lot can happen.
I firmly believe that Christopher Tolofua the Toulouse hooker will come back to play for France and put pressure on him. Not as a captain but as a starting hooker. Christopher Tolofua is the next big star of French rugby. He will become one of the best hookers in the world! Just watch this:
BC – Guirado also managed to squeeze in a Top 14 game between his national duties. What is this about? He is starting and plays most of the game for France and still ends up adding club duties for Toulon? Who owns the players in France? Does the national team not get preference over all teams?
DD – Players in France are contracted by the clubs. There are rules obviously for international players but they aren’t really protected. What happened with Guirado is that Toulon had injuries at hooker position and they had to play him in between two Six Nations games.
It is difficult but clubs owners are paying these guys a lot of money and it is difficult when they can’t play for their club. I think it is unhealthy for players to play too much. As we probably won’t be able to reduce Top 14 teams to 12.
I think clubs should contract more players each season. Which means increasing the salary cap probably. Today with the schedule and the salary cap French rugby created its own limits. A choice will have to be made at some stage. And the sooner the better.