The trident took shape in early 2021 after the ouster of Xavier Garbajosa and a very complicated first part of the season. Philippe Saint-André, director of MHR rugby since March 2020, had found a manager suit, associated with Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Olivier Azam, who already worked in the previous staff. After rescuing Montpellier in the Top 14 and winning the European Challenge, the trio now leads a team at the top of the Top 14 with four games to go before the end of the regular season and preparing for battle against the Harlequins in the round of 16 of the European Cup.
Building on this success, the three men saw their contract, which ran until June 2023, extended by two years. “We’ve been working hand in hand for fourteen months, explains Saint-André. All three of us are versatile and complementary, “Jean-Ba” and Olivier take on a lot of responsibilities on the pitch and I am very happy to continue with them. †
In addition, the two technicians have been promoted to co-head coaches, which will not disrupt their daily lives, those who, for example, conduct the training sessions where “PSA”, the “project manager”, “cares for people very well” (dixit Elissalde) and the general policy of the club. In particular, these numerous expansions of players included in the season (Vincent, Willemse, Reinach, Serfontein…). Or the recruitment for next season of Leo Coly and other Louis Carbonel.
“I have a good feeling about this staff. At other times I was the chairman. With these three I am a partner”
“We have a trio that works well, we wanted to continue, said Azam for his part. We went through difficult times last season, we all faced each other together, we discovered each other humanly and with a lot of work from the players we can see the result. It is good to build up over time as the level of competition is very tough. The goal, with this stability, is to leave the club where it wants to be, ie very high. †
For President Mohed Altrad, in recent years more used to the end of brutal stories with his staff than to announcements of renewal – “we learn, we grow, we draw conclusions”he assured on this subject – the logic went in the direction of continuity, even if it means closing the door to technicians like Yannick Bru and Pierre Mignoni, who have appeared on the market in recent months. “I have a good feeling about this staff. At other times I was the chairman. With these three I am a partner. There is a synergy in the club with these profiles that complement each other well, a staff that works very well and players that I have confidence in as well. We have found the right formula and I am optimistic about the future of this club. †
To the point of considering a major title this season, finally? “It’s not okay to say we want the Brennus, smiled Mohed Altrad. Very clever who can say who will be champion. This championship is unpredictable, we are well placed to know that. The last time we went to the final, in 2018 (against Castres)everyone won us over, we also saw each other there and what happened (loss 29-13)† Rugby is an imprecise science, so I’ll be careful not to say we’re going to be champions this year. We are the first and we tell ourselves that we will have to win these last two or three games to become champions. But we have the will and the ambition to make it happen. I feel good at the end of the season, but it’s not my current feeling that will make us champions. †