Hard choices need to be made
French giants Clermont's already shattered morale took another blow as coach Vern Cotter took aim both at several players and at the future direction of the club.
Cotter, due to take over as coach of Scotland after next season, said the club - who in the past 10 days have been beaten by Toulon in the European Cup Final and then by Castres in the French championship semifinals - had to compromise over their policy of bringing players through the youth system if they were to remain competitive.
The 51-year-old argued, though, against the policy pursued by Toulon, that of paying out huge sums of money to a host of established stars, saying there was a middle ground, but he did not refrain from criticising the club's recruiting policy under sporting director Jean-Marc Lhermet.
"Hard choices need to be made," the New Zealander told Wednesday's edition of the local Clermont newspaper La Montagne.
"We are lacking leaders when it comes to decisive matches. That weakness must be taken care of immediately. Because it is becoming more and more difficult when I see how certain clubs are strengthening their finances. It is imperative we strike hard and fast! And that is especially the case for the year after next [2014-2015 and when a new president takes over].
"It is for those who will be in charge to assume their responsibilities."
Cotter, who himself has been criticised for only landing one trophy since he arrived in 2006 - Clermont's maiden French title in 2010, pinpointed the failure so far to secure the signing of highly-regarded France lock Sebastien Vahaamina from Perpignan as an example of Lhermet's failure in the transfer market.
"A boy like Sebastien Vahaamina should already be here! I would like to have him and I hope to still. He wants to come, and it is crucial we don't let this opportunity pass us by. It is vital you know what you want!
"Everyone wants to copy the Toulon model with foreign stars. Why? Because they get quick results. And us, what did we decide to do? We opted for taking players through the youth system; I believe that we are right. But also it is important to have a mix."
Cotter, who came to Clermont after being part of the coaching set up that secured back to back Super Rugby successes in 2005 and 2006 with the Crusaders, said that he regretted having placed faith in several players who had not repaid that faith, although he only named Australian flyhalf Brock James.
James, who has had a record of losing his bearings especially with his kicking in crucial games, was held to account for the defeat by Toulon in the European Cup final, which had been Clermont's principal target all season and which had seen them emerge unbeaten from the pool stage and having eliminated two-time defending champions Leinster to boot.
"He [James] is responsible on the pitch for the direction of the game and we were not very happy with him in the match with Toulon," said Cotter.
"With regard to the semifinal loss to Castres, well, I believe we underestimated the impact of the defeat to Toulon," he said.
"The signs were there already in the first-half when I saw that the players were not even talking among themselves."