Marc’s cousin, Olivier Lievremont, is the new DTN of the FFR. From 2017 to 2019 he was assistant coach of the France women’s team. Most recently, he worked in the technical direction of the Paca and Corsica leagues, after being regional rugby consultant for Franche-Comté and then Poitou-Charentes.
Compared to your background, this DTN position is a bit of a consecration, isn’t it?
Let’s say it’s a form of achievement. I go there with great conviction to advance French rugby. My background allows me access to this position, although it’s not what I envisioned in my career. I know village rugby, but also professional rugby. And that gives French teams a vision of rugby with a very broad prism.
Didier Rétière went to Clermont as director of the sports project. Have you always wanted to try a club experience at the highest level?
As an amateur, I coached clubs. I found meaning in this job as a technical consultant. And now that I’m focused on a career that gives me purpose, I don’t see myself going in any other direction. After that, four months ago, I didn’t see myself there again… So I’m not going to tell you that I’ll never be a coach.
Olivier Lievremont in an advisory role for clubs
You didn’t progress into the top 14 as a player or coach. Isn’t that a disadvantage?
I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot with professional clubs in an advisory, supportive and structuring manner. It’s an area I know a little bit about. And then also with the support of trainers, with their training, with state diplomas.
And when you’re a coach you have to live in immersion for a year and eventually see a lot of them over the years. I have been teaching professional club trainers for almost 15 years and we have experienced many different seasons through these formations. The constraints, the demands, the stress, the difficulties, the pressure and, moreover, a special context linked to professional rugby make us live the reality of things.
There is a new role, club technical advisor, can you tell us a little more about that?
It was a huge project, launched by Bernard Laporte when he came to the helm of the federation in order to achieve professionalization, but focused on a key project to support the club. For us, the most important issue for the association is to create the club of the 21st century.
To do this, the federation must be able to put technical advisors and professionals in a position to develop a national sports policy close to the clubs but as close as possible to the territories. The next territorial unit is the club. It was necessary to create an organization that would allow this sports policy to be implemented at the federal, league, club and departmental committee levels.
Club technical advisors are like sporting directors of a club pool. They are there to help, advise on structuring, support and implement information. Also there to think a little further than rugby. For example, creating volunteerism, setting up operations to keep not only players but also volunteers, educators, etc. It’s a vision much broader than the field.
The FFR supports clubs in preparing for the World Cup
What about the relationship between the association and the top 14 clubs?
We met this challenge in a different way, by stopping to say that there are clubs on one side and the association on the other, those who know and those who don’t know. For example, it doesn’t make sense that the French Pole players continue to stay permanently in Marcoussis and eventually don’t reach the first teams of the clubs where they are. It is important to set up a decentralized French pole, dematerialized by working with the clubs, the physical coaches of the clubs. It used to be more like league versus club and now league versus club. We have to keep going.
That doesn’t stop the top 14 clubs from complaining about not playing their internationals…
After that are the questions of the calendar, the world economy and world sports politics, but it is not inevitable. These are limitations that France can respond to because it is a strong nation. It must therefore be included in the debates, but it is also a compulsion because we cannot change the international rules every day.
“Create the Club of the 21st Century”
The French team has won the Grand Slam, the French clubs have won the two European Cups in the last two seasons. Is French rugby today a reference, a model?
We’re not number 1 in the world yet, but that’s our claim. Our training is of high quality, we have to keep going and build a positive dynamic around the French team and get the win. The best is the enemy of the good. The goal is not necessarily to do better, but to continue to do well and ensure that this system works over the long term.
You have a famous name. Does that bring some pressure?
I’ve been proposed with other positions in the media and it’s something that has never affected me. I don’t really think about it much. I know where I come from, what I’ve done, who I am, that’s the most important thing.
What did Marc tell you when you were appointed?
He was proud. The story is a bit crazy though. It’s fun to be there. He is also my godfather. We’ve shared strong moments since I was little. So inevitable pride, but restraint, there was no champagne saber and we didn’t jump into each other’s arms either. He encouraged me.
Olivier Lievremont wants to surf on the success of the XV of France
If you really care about something, what will be your passion for your mission?
We have already talked about this type of dynamism that needs to be maintained, this complete performance, social, pedagogical and of the French team. For me it is really this union that needs to be achieved. Rugby as a whole, to use the current results for the rest of French rugby, but to continue to work with the rest of French rugby so that at some point the French teams produce a performance that people feel at home with in the federation and that’s what it’s about .
After that you have to take care of young people, of course the 14-19 year olds, that’s a very important element. Feminization in rugby is developing, licensees are only increasing, but perhaps not fast enough.
We are under the impression that the barometer is the results of the blues.
In fact, one feeds the other. We cannot affect the French team without affecting the rest and we cannot affect the rest without affecting the French team and one affects the other. The French team is the visible face of the iceberg and is in fact the federation’s communicative and commercial force. The results are a consequence of that.
The other nations copy France
Are nations coming to France to unravel the mysteries of French rugby?
We used to copy a lot from others. Now other nations are asking questions about France. Foreigners said 10 years ago: “France is a sleeping giant, you must not wake it up”. It seems to me that the giant there woke up a little. And now they ask what woke up the giant and they come to visit us a bit, ask what happened, how we work.
Our strategy in recent years has been to create a wildlife observatory, a research and innovation center. Also, be one step ahead and plan further than what is happening today.
Is it a real strategy or the meeting of an exceptional generation with Antoine Dupont and the arrival of a new coach Fabien Galthié?
I lived this selection because I was the coach of the France -16 team at the time. I’ve seen the development of the Federation. So I know it’s not a coincidence. But it takes a long time to build up such generations. I often say 8 years, even if it’s not far from 10 years, and that’s why the DTN or the senior people who work at the Federation actually never reap the fruits of their policies today.