With Bernard Laporte and Patrice Collazo, on a commando mission since the end of November at the request of President Mohed Altrad, Montpellier will try, on Sunday against Toulon, to confirm a timid recovery and get the club out of one of the worst sporting crises in its history. Red lantern of the championship for five days and threatened with relegation which would be a first since 2003, the MHR is plunged into a rare turmoil 18 months after its first title of champion of France.
Appointed on November 19 the day after a defeat in Perpignan, Bernard Laporte, former coach of the Blues and ex-president of the FFR, upset the technical staff in one day, entrusting the keys to the experienced Patrice Collazo.
For now, the reshuffle has not revolutionized the results. Certainly, Montpellier is doing a little better, but still displays the scars of a convalescent, still marked by the painful passage of English manager Richard Cockerill, dismissed five months after his arrival. “There’s something extra that we didn’t have before. The new staff brings good humor. Breaking habits, bringing a new strategy into the game... change is good,” assures second row Marco Tauleigne.
But after returning to victory in the Challenge Cup then in the championship in front of Castres (30-21), the MHR wasted the opportunity in Lyon (20-18) to accelerate its recovery. With five points behind the play-off Perpignan and eight behind the first non-relegation Lyon, the Languedoc club therefore remains facing a long obstacle course to save its place in the elite. “The defeat in Lyon hurt us. We had to remobilize everyone. If we have a drop in speed, we become more fragile, even though we have no room for error,” recalls Collazo.
Laporte, for his part, observes, expresses his opinions to the technical staff and reiterates his authority through a few interventions in the locker room. “He has experience, he knows exactly what we should do or not. I am always a fan of his speeches, he is direct, frank,” explained international Paul Willemse at the end of November. But “Crazy Bernie” must temper his fiery temperament, just like Collazo, who until now has displayed calm and serenity. “Bernard, me... There are excesses in the thing. You have to weigh everything, especially someone like me who is in excess. We are down to the gram. It’s not just rugby, it’s 70% psychology,” he smiles.
For seven weeks, the former coach of La Rochelle, Toulon and Brive has been seeking to heal heads and restore the confidence lost by a squad lacking results. And also focuses on simple things: the emulation of a larger group and a game that corresponds to the DNA of the MHR. The new manager is also obliged to pass on the instructions for maintenance to his players, to relearn the former French champion to struggle, perhaps even to pay the costs of a certain post-title carelessness .
“It’s not at all the same sport, it’s not the same championship, it requires mental resources. Teams are formatted for this. A maintenance is sometimes worth the price of a Brennus. You have to create a team dynamic in survival mode, you have to look deep within yourself, you have to give the energy for this mission,” he explains. Today, more than ever, the MHR workforce must therefore play a role in its survival. “If we let things happen, it’s complicated. On the other hand, if we all decide it together, it could be complicated for a lot of teams to stop us. If we all pull together, if we move forward together, there is a way to get out of this shit,” hopes Marco Tauleigne.