After training resumed last Friday, followed by a mini mountain integration course over the weekend, Yann Roubert, President of LOU, and Xavier Garbajosa, the new manager, presented the ambitions for the season. For the successor to Pierre Mignoni, after a last season between highs – victory in the Challenge Cup – and lows – ninth place in the league – the final phase of the top 14 has to be found.
“How do you see the LOU season ending with that win over Toulon in the Challenge Cup final followed by a loss to La Rochelle that left the club out of the closing stages?
Lyon probably lacked freshness. It’s hard to have both. The Challenge Cup victory pumped a lot of energy. Too many to finish in the top 14 but the European title was a form of relief, something great for the club, the staff, the players, the public.
Does that mean we have to choose between the Champions Cup and the top 14?
Getting back into the final stages of the top 14 is the primary goal, but you can’t overuse a European trophy, especially when you have the chance to face Saracens and the Bulls. The European target will be adjusted according to the results. When you lose the first leg, especially at home, you know qualifying is complicated. We will take that into account.
Lyon recruit mostly from abroad with three New Zealand players (Liam Coltman, Josiah Maraku and Fletcher Smith, who were set to sign up as medical substitutes while Lima Sopoaga faces knee surgery), a South African (Arno Botha), an Australian (Kyle Godwin) . ) and two French (Paulo Tafili and Maxime Gouzou). Was it intentional?
Yes and no. My arrival was late and it’s not easy to replace a Charlie Ngatai or a Pierre-Louis Barassi. There was a research paper related to the needs. We had to make decisions without really knowing the team and at a time when there were few or no French players on the market. We had to find personalities and rugby players that adapt to the group and the game we want to build, which is no different from last year’s, which is part of Lyon’s identity.
“But my experience has shown me that you have to know how to analyze a context, an environment, in order to adapt to it. I am in an observation phase”
What condition do you find a bank in a year and a half later?
I feel a lot of excitement. I was looking forward to rediscovering that atmosphere, planning training sessions, discussing rugby, arguing with the players, the staff… I missed it. I discovered an enthusiastic and fresh group after five weeks of vacation because last season was very long. Here we are in the preparatory phase. We discover each other too. We remain vigilant to the heatwave and have adapted by starting sessions at 7:30am.
What do you think you can bring?
It would be presumptuous to say I bring this or that. I have my personality, my beliefs. But my experience has shown me that you have to know how to analyze a context, an environment, in order to adapt to it. I am in an observation phase. I observe how my employees work, I discuss with them to have the best options. I look, I observe, I listen, I share in order to carry out my analysis. Then, with my personality, my beliefs, I’ll try to bring that extra something to improve certain areas of the game.
Is Pierre Mignoni’s seven-year tenure, which ended in a Challenge Cup title, putting you under any pressure?
I don’t see it as pressure but as joy to be back on the pitch. I’m coming to a healthy club that has built its progress step by step with Pierre. There’s no pressure, just a desire to do well, to grow, to develop the club’s image, to establish that culture, that identity. There is no pressure to want to contribute. This opportunity to lead the LOU is all the more interesting for me because the game played by Lyon appeals to me in every respect. I grew up in the game in motion, this game speaks to me, this identity corresponds to me. It was important for my decision to come here. »