The 6th defeat in a row in the Top 14, this Saturday in Perpignan (23-16), and a last place in the standings for the 2022 French champion, got the better of Philippe Saint-André. The president of the MHR announced to the JDD the arrival as Director of Rugby of… Bernard Laporte. A recruitment that is sure to make noise and fuel controversy.
The two men in fact appealed their joint trial where, at first instance, on December 13, 2022, Mohed Altrad received an 18-month suspended prison sentence (and a fine of 50,000 euros) and Bernard Laporte received two years in prison. suspended sentence (and €75,000 fine) for several common charges, including a corruption pact. The president of the FFR, finally forced to resign from his post under pressure from the Minister of Sports, was also banned from exercising any functions related to rugby for two years. Sentences suspended by appeal.
Bernard Laporte, who had already almost signed with MHR in 2016, therefore made a resounding return. Who will raise many questions given his proximity to Mohed Altrad, who earned them this trial for active corruption, influence peddling and abuse of corporate assets.
“I have no comment to make on a procedure which is on appeal,” replied Mohed Altrad to the JDD, before specifying: “Bernard Laporte told me that he had contacted the High Authority for the Transparency of Political Life ( HATVP) and, in the state of the criminal proceedings, which are still ongoing, the club can hire Bernard Laporte for the entire sporting aspect. So much for the legal point. On the ethical side, however...
The owner of the Hérault club then explains that he has entrusted him with a specific mission. “Bernard Laporte will exclusively supervise and coordinate the sporting aspects of the club. His role will be to provide his expertise to improve the team's performance. We also expect that his aura and natural leadership will allow us to regain cohesion within the team.”
Mohed Altrad also explains to the JDD the reasons for his choice. “Our team lacks a bond, a soul, a spirit, which only the greatest leaders have deep within them. We thought a lot about it with the management of the club, with all the members of the staff, and the decision was made to look for this person who could bring us this soul. Bernard Laporte is the culture of winning, leadership, team spirit. He embodies the soul that our team needs. (...) When one of the best French managers is available, it’s a unique sporting opportunity, we couldn’t pass it up.”
If the former coach of the XV of France should therefore not be close to the field, the sports manager, the Englishman Richard Cockerill, seems more than ever in the hot seat. Since his arrival in the off-season, the poor results (1 victory, 6 defeats, last place in the Top 14) do not argue in favor of his retention, the graft having obviously not taken.