Noves: ‘Accept defeat when it is well earned by others . . .’
GUY NOVES has had more embarrassing moments in Edinburgh than when having to talk away becoming the first French coach to suffer defeat at the hands of Scotland in more than a decade and the man who was marched off the pitch by police after his Toulouse team had won the 2005 Heineken Cup final consequently seemed unflustered as he sought to do so.
Appointed to replace Philippe SaintAndre, who was considered by many to have knocked all the style out of this most flamboyant of rugby nations, this was the sort of result that had the potential to undermine Noves’ regime from the earliest stages. There was, after all, a sense that his best days were behind him even before his long stint with what remains Europe’s most successful club side ended.
There are similarities between the two jobs in that both Toulouse and France seem to have lost the special qualities that lent both teams a mystique and ensured that they were feared by all opponents.
Gone, it would seem, is the fabled flair with eccentric homegrown talent replaced in many cases by imports who perhaps offer more in the way of consistency, but are less likely to change games with moments of brilliance.
How much this performance was down to what Noves has inherited and how much can be attributed to his input is moot at this stage, then, just four matches after he replaced Saint-Andre following France’s uninspired efforts at the World Cup.
A venerable figure these days his track record demands respect, however, and so, too, did his words as he offered a hint of Kipling-esque philosophy laced with the realism of the demands of professional sport.
“Sometimes we have to accept defeat when it is well earned by the others. The point of view of the sportsperson is made out of defeats and victories, but we shouldn’t close our eyes to things that went wrong today. This is the beginning of our job,” he asserted.
There was generosity of spirit in his assessment of his hosts’ contribution to the humbling of a team representing a nation that had seen its team lose just once in Edinburgh in the previous 20 years, suggesting as he did that this result for Scotland in a competitive match against one of the leading nations was overdue.
“Scotland won and had the right to win,” said Noves. “Against Australia in the World Cup they should won but fate was different.”
In saying so he understandably preferred to focus on his own team’s efforts and made the point that Vern Cotter, his counterpart whom he knows well from many major battles in the French domestic arena when the New Zealander was in charge of Clermont Auvergne, has had rather longer to instil what he is seeking into his charges.
“I would prefer to talk about the French team, but because this Scottish team has had time to train and progress we can be tolerant of allowing this team to beat us today,” Noves observed.
Furthermore he felt that France gave away the initiative after starting in a manner which threatened to make this a chastening weekend for the Scots following their excitement at finally ending a recordbreaking Six Nations losing run in Italy 15 days earlier.
“The French team started well and were heading for a dynamic game, but the mistakes that were produced changed the course of the game,” Noves reckoned.
“In the beginning I felt the Scottish team was dominated, but then the French players were penalised because of the mistakes they were making and went from leading 5-0 to being 6-5 behind which has allowed the Scottish team to take advantage and change the match their way and control it from there.
“We have a team that is dynamic and wants to produce and get results, but the problem is that it is hard to talk about progress when the players drop the ball.”
HIGHS AND LOWS: French players ponder what just happened as Scotland revel in what just happened for the second time in a row . . .