Can Brunel reproduce Perpignan magic?

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 18:03

SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: The last time France captain Guilhem Guirado teamed up with new head coach Jacques Brunel they helped Perpignan win the French Top 14 title.

That was nine years ago when Brunel made his mark as a coach, leading the Catalans to a second successive Top 14 Final in 2010 and then taking over the Italy reins a year later.

Guirado, a Catalan who grew up near Perpignan, credits Brunel with launching his career and says they had a short conversation with the coach before agreeing to continue captaining France following the sacking of Guy Noves in December.

Guirado says Brunel has changed little since his Perpignan days.

"He's obviously developed his concept of rugby with today's rugby, which is different, but not in what he says," said Guirado ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against Ireland.

"He was able to embed himself into the Catalan culture and context, which is quite complicated.

"And he brought us what we were lacking: rigour and discipline.

"We gave everything we had because we always needed to prove ourselves and give more than we had.

"Once that was implanted it was something great."

Although France have changed coach for the second time in two years, Guirado insists "Les Bleus" are not starting from scratch.

"It's the start of a new era. There was a lot to renew, so we needed to find our bearings. That's done. Now we need to show it on the pitch and put in a great team performance."

Guirado said he is happy for France to play the role of underdogs against tournament favourites Ireland.

"With this pretty young and new group, no-one expects much from us - that's fine, we'll continue under the radar."

It is expected to rain at the Stade de France and while Guirado says he'll be happy to drag the visitors into a forward scrap, he is not ruling out causing a stunning upset like the 27-22 victory Scotland managed against the Irish in their tournament opener a year ago.

"Showing up in the battle, aggression - I think the weather will allow us to turn up the heat in the forward battle," he added.

"In the Six Nations you can get some nice surprises. Don't forget that last year they were surprised by a great Scotland team who ran them ragged during a fantastic first 20 minutes.

"I'd like us to be able to produce a first 20 minutes as impressive as that."

Agence France-Presse

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Fri, 23 February 2018
Highlanders v Blues 06h35 Dunedin
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Sat, 24 February 2018
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Team P W D L Pts
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England 2 2 0 0 9
Wales 2 1 0 1 6
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France 2 0 0 2 2
Italy 2 0 0 2 0