Elissalde starts with Toulouse as coach

Just one month after drawing a line under his stellar playing career, former France half-back Jean-Baptiste Elissalde started work in his new job on Monday – as backs coach at former club Toulouse.

The 32-year-old, whose last game as a player was for the Barbarians against Ireland on June 5, admitted that it had been a low key start to his coaching career.

“I arrived a little early, just as I used to as a player,” said Elissalde who scored 1,929 points for Toulouse in 239 matches.

“I chatted with (forward coach) Yannick (Bru). I said hello to the guys and watched them run.”

The slow early pace, however, is sure to quicken as the French giants close in on the start of the domestic championship – the Top 14 – in mid-August not to mention the beginning of their defence of the European Cup, secured in Elissalde’s final game for the club against Biarritz in May.

Elissalde, however, insists that Toulouse’s European success and the heightened expectations of their fans would not increase the pressure on him to deliver quickly as a coach.

“The only pressure that I have is to try and make sure that the guys are able to leave training a little less stupid than when they arrived,” he said.

“Obviously making sure that they win at the weekend and they don’t go insulting the referees and so on.

“We are still missing quite a few players who are coming back bit by bit so I am discovering a new set of problems that I didn’t know about and I am trying to get around them as best I can.”

Elissalde, a Six Nations Grand Slam winner with France in 2004, joined Toulouse as a player back in 2002, helping them to three European Cup titles.

As a result he knows the players intimately and, more to the point, they know him.

Such closeness between a coach and his players can be problematic and Elissalde, who learnt his trade under his coaching father Jean-Pierre (who was also a French international) at La Rochelle before moving to Toulouse, admits he is not sure how that aspect of the job will work out.

“It is the greatest part of the unknown,” said the ex-half-back, capped 35 times by France, captaining the team on three occasions and scoring 214 points.

“I don’t know how the guys are going to respond to my new role.

I don’t know how, from my part, I am going to react to my new position with regard to them. I suppose that all of that will work itself out as we go along.

“It is good that the players are arriving in dribs and drabs because it means I can make my mark slowly.”

Elissalde has the benefit of working with former teammate Bru as well as the veteran Guy Noves, who has been head coach at Toulouse since 1993, but he knows it won’t all be plain sailing.

“Yannick and Guy Noves, with their great experience, will be able to guide me. I am going to focus on giving my very best.

However, I realise that I am going to get some things wrong and we will just have to deal with that when the time comes.”

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