Ruggaworld decided to look into the recent transfer of players from all over the world to France. We spoke to the agent Damien Dussault.
A man who knows French rugby all too well. A keen traveller, a rugby fan and a key cog in the DA Management…
We hear what is happening in France, their policies and just who he would call up if he was to field a World XV.
BC – What is your role at DA – Management?
DD – I am a rugby agent with licences in both France and the United Kingdom. I manage players like Morné Steyn, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Christopher Tolofua and Heinke Van der Merwe in Europe and try to help them be in the best conditions on and off the pitch.
I aim to allow them to focus on the pitch and perform at their best. My job involves sourcing and negotiating the best contracts but also taking care of the players and their families. This involves sponsorships, tax, financial planning and other assistance especially settling in (for foreigners).
I aim to help young players grow to their potential at the highest level. I want to help the best to reach their best which means playing high level rugby, making great money, enjoy their time during their professional rugby years and make sure they have money and a plan for after rugby.
BC – The Top 14 has become a destination for most of the best players in the world. Is there any other reason besides the financial gain?
DD – I think that spending more time with their families is also one of the main reasons. When you play Super Rugby and you are an International player in the southern hemisphere, it involves long travels and lots of time away from home. When you play a Top 14 game, you leave for 24 hours only when it’s an away game.
I would like to think that the lifestyle in France is one of the best in the world. Players want to experience our relaxing lifestyle that includes less stress, nice food and wine. When you play Top 14 rugby, during your free time you can travel around Europe. I mean you are very close to London, Milan, Amsterdam, and Barcelona just to mention a few places.
Finally, I think the Top 14 has become one of the most difficult competitions in the world. Players want to experience that kind of physicality. It is very different to Super 15. In Top 14, players run probably less but set pieces are longer and more importantly the contact zone is probably more physical.
BC – The French side have suffered as a team because of the foreign influx. Can they change their policy? Will they want to?
DD – We already have a quota policy in France for players that have been in our professional club’s academies for a minimum of 3 years (before age 22) or that have played any club rugby during their childhood for a minimum of 5 years (before age 21).
If a player falls under one of these two conditions he is then considered as what we call JIFF (French formed player). 55 % of JIFFs have to be played by each club in Top 14 or Pro D2. An average is made per season and clubs can be fined if they don’t respect this rule. Note that this JIFF rule has nothing to do with qualifying or not for the French national team.
The real question is to know if we don’t play our young French players because of the amount of foreigners or because they aren’t ready to compete against the best players. It’s probably a bit of both and I think it comes from our formation system.
In France rugby isn’t the main sport played by our kids. There isn’t any rugby at schools. So if you don’t play in a club from a very young age you probably miss out on some basics of the game.
I don’t think the policy will change because nobody really wants it to. Top 14 currently attracts the best players in the world and I am not sure it would be a good idea to change that. Next season the Top 14 will feature Daniel Carter, Morne Steyn, Ma’a Nonu, Will Genia, and Adam Ashley-Cooper. It is exciting for the fans to have all these quality players to watch every weekend.
BC – Montpellier have been on a massive shopping spree, do you think they will be challengers next season?
DD – They will most probably be real challengers next season. First they have a very experienced coach in Jake White. They do have a lot of quality players in their squad. Their real problem might be the time they’ll play without the boys that go to the World Cup.
These guys will take time to settle into the team system when they return. It will be up to Jake White to create that alchemy in the team quickly.
BC – Can you name your World XV right now?
DD – It is a hard question but I will try to name 23 players and explain why I chose them! Jeez I wouldn’t like to be a national coach…
- Heinke Van der Merwe, best scrummager in the world at loose head currently.
- Dylan Hartley, to bring some fighting spirit into this team.
- Rabah Slimani, also best tight head scrum wise at the moment.
- Brodie Retallick, he can do everything on the pitch.
- Juandre Kruger, best lineout player in the world.
- David Pocock, top player and leader when on his best form.
- Richie McCaw, because he remains the best in the world.
- Sergio Parisse, all he does is perfect and genius.
- Aaron Smith, to serve fast and good ball.
- Morne Steyn, the insurance to win any game.
- Julian Savea, big, quick and explosive.
- Sonny Bill Williams, to bring X-factor and crazy offloads.
- Kyle Eastmond, perfect to play after SBW.
- Yohann Huget, to add some French flair in this backline.
- Israel Folau, no need to comment I think.
- Christopher Tolofua, a great and heavy ball carrier to bring X-factor in the front row.
- Gurthrö Steenkamp, can bring a lot around the pitch and won’t weak the scrum.
- Eben Etzebeth, cover 4 and 5 with the same intensity and aggression.
- Billy Vunipola, a proper bulldozer with ball in hand.
- Will Genia, could have been my number one choice at scrumhalf.
- Matt Giteau, cover 10 and 12 with the same creativity.
- Stuart Hogg, the Scottish speedster with a lot of flair.
- Uini Atonio, heavy weight at scrums and ball carries.
It is very hard to make choices and I could have add so many players like : Logovi’I Mulipola, Juan de Jongh, Ma’a Nonu, Kieran Read, Thierry Dusautoir, Alex Dunbar, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jonathan Joseph…etc.
BC – Thanks for your time Damien!
DD – Thank you very much Benedict.
Follow Damien on @damiendussault and @d_a_management