Bernard Laporte to coach Toulon in Top 14

Former France coach Bernard Laporte will succeed Philippe Saint-Andre as manager of Top 14 Rugby side Toulon after being appointed by club owner Mourad Boudjellal on Monday.

Former France international Saint-Andre has already agreed to become France coach when current handler Marc Lievremont’s contract expires at the end of the World Cup in New Zealand.

Saint-Andre will take charge of Toulon for the last time on Friday when they face Bordeaux-Begles.

Boudjellal said Laporte, who coached France from 1999-2007, had accepted a two-year deal to manage the big-spending Top 14 side.

Laporte spent the bulk of his playing career with Bordeaux-Begles and coached the side for two seasons before moving to Stade Francais (1995-1999) and, in 1999, becoming the first coach of France never to have been picked at international level.

During his eight-year spell with ‘Les Bleus’ Laporte won the Six Nations championship four times, in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007, two of which, in 2002 and 2004, were Grand Slams.

In his quest for a replacement Boudjellal had already sounded out Tana Umaga, Tim Lane, Nick Mallett, Robbie Deans, John Kirwan, Eric Champ and Jerome Gallion.

Although Umaga was his first choice, Boudjellal made his only concrete offer so far when he offered a deal to former Toulon coach Daniel Herrero.

Boudjellal finally turned to Laporte and after meeting him on September 7 they signed an agreement which will see Laporte stay an extra season if Toulon manage to qualify for the European Cup on Sunday.

“I’ve rarely seen someone who speaks so much about rugby, he is really passionate about the game,” said Boudjellal.

“Bernard isn’t coming here to revolutionise things, it will be more of an evolution.”

After hosts France finished fourth at the 2007 World Cup Laporte was appointed French minister for sport, a post he remained in until 2009.

He returned to rugby at the end of 2010 as a top official with Top 14 side Bayonne, but was sacked barely two months later.

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