France open door to foreign talent
September 29, 2009
France coach Marc Lievremont coul relax his stance on selecting overseas players for the national side © Getty Images
France could soon see an influx of talent at international level, with coach Marc Lievremont set to relax his stance on selecting foreign-born players for international duty.
Under IRB law, players seeking to win international honours must have been born in the country that they wish to represent, have either a parent or grandparent from the country or complete a three-year residency period. In recent years South Africans Pieter de Villiers and Brian Liebenberg have pulled on the blue jersey, along with Kiwi centre Tony Marsh.
After taking the France job, Lievremont stated his desire to bring through a raft of young French talent to bolster their international ambitions but is reportedly frustrated with his lack of options.
Under the guidance of French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Pierre Camou, Lievremont drew up a list of foreign players about to complete their residency however, with Brive's South African duo Antonie Claassen and Gerhard Vosloo heading the list.
"When I started out as national coach two years ago, it was not a question for me of picking foreign players for the national team," Lievremont told L'Equipe. "That came out of a question of principle and because there was an enormous potential among young French players. I was holding on to this French identity in the national team.
"Last year Pierre Camou asked me to draw up a team made up solely of foreign players. It seemed like a snapshot to me, one which wouldn't go much further. This season, my point of view is not totally the same.
"I'm not saying that I'm ready for a complete turnaround, but let's say that I'm struggling to find the equivalent among young French players of the generation of (Fulgence) Ouedraogo, (Francois) Trinh-Duc, (Fabien) Barcella, (Maxime) Mermoz and (Maxime) Medard. It is there but I don't think that it'd be a good idea to throw them up against the South Africans or All Blacks come November."
France take on South Africa on November 13 and the All Blacks on November 28, with Lievremont admitting that as yet only Claassen had really caught his eye.
"I watch all the Top 14 games on the television, I visit stadiums and from what I've seen, the only one I really like is Brive's Antonie Claassen," he said. "Of course, there's Vosloo, but for me it's Claassen who corresponds to what I look for in the back-row."