After the resumption of training last Friday followed by a mini mountain integration course during the weekend, Yann Roubert, the president of LOU, and Xavier Garbajosa, the new manager, presented the ambitions for the season. . For Pierre Mignoni’s successor, the priority will be to find the final phase of the Top 14 after a last season between highs – victory in the Challenge Cup – and lows – ninth place in the league.
“How do you view the end of the LOU season with this victory over Toulon in the Challenge Cup final followed a week later by a defeat against La Rochelle which deprived the club of the final phase?
Lyon probably lacked freshness. It’s hard to have it both ways. The Challenge Cup victory pumped up a lot of energy. Too much to achieve the objective set in the Top 14, but the European title was a form of relaxation, something great for the club, the staff, the players, the public.
Does this mean that we will have to make choices in the Champions Cup and Top 14?
The priority objective is to find the final phase of the Top 14 but we cannot tarnish a European Cup, even less when we have the chance to play Saracens and the Bulls. The European target will be adapted according to the results. If you lose the first match, especially at home, you know that qualification is complicated. We will take that into account.
Lyon’s recruitment is predominantly foreign with three New Zealand players (Liam Coltman, Josiah Maraku and Fletcher Smith who should sign up as medical jokers while Lima Sopoaga has to have knee surgery), a South African (Arno Botha), an Australian (Kyle Godwin) and two French (Paulo Tafili and Maxime Gouzou). Was it wanted?
Yes and no. My arrival was late and a Charlie Ngatai or a Pierre-Louis Barassi is not easy to replace. There has been research work in relation to the needs. We had to make choices without knowing the team perfectly and at a time when there were few or no French players on the market. We had to find personalities and rugby players adaptable to the group and the game we want to put in place, which is no different from that of last year, 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 a period of observation”
You find a bench a year and a half later, with what state of mind?
I feel a lot of excitement. I was looking forward to rediscovering this atmosphere, to planning training sessions, to discussing rugby, to discussing with the players, the staff… I missed it. I discovered a group shipped and fresh after five weeks of vacation because the last season had been very long. Here we are in the preparation period. We also discover each other. We remain vigilant with the heat wave and we adapted by starting the sessions at 7:30 a.m.
What do you think you can bring?
It would be pretentious to say I will bring this or that. I have my personality, my convictions. 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 a period of observation. I watch how my staff works, I discuss with them to have the best options. I look, I observe, I listen, I exchange to do my analysis. Then, with my personality, my convictions, I will try to bring that little extra to improve certain areas of the game.
Succeeding Pierre Mignoni’s seven-year term, concluding with a Challenge Cup title, does that put pressure on you?
I don’t see it as pressure, just as the pleasure of getting back on the pitch. I arrive in a healthy club which has integrated its progress step by step with Pierre. There is no pressure, just the desire to do well, to grow, to continue to develop the club’s image, to establish this culture, this identity. It is not pressure to seek to contribute. This opportunity to manage the LOU is all the more interesting for me as the game practiced by Lyon suits me in all respects. I was raised in the game in movement, this game speaks to me, this identity corresponds to me. It was important in my choice to come here. »