TOULON HEAD COACH Bernard Laporte will be allowed to give his team-talk to his players at next weekend’s Heineken Cup final after he had his 16-week suspension lifted by the National Rugby League (LNR) his club announced.
The 49-year-old former France national coach — whose side have reached the European Cup final and on Friday the French championship final during the suspension — had been slapped with a 16 game suspension imposed on February 12 after a bitter verbal attack on a referee on January 4.
“It is not just this incident where he was hopeless. He was hopeless all the matches. He is always hopeless,” Laporte said of referee Laurent Cardona after the 22 – 21 defeat at the hands of Bernard Jackman’s Grenoble.
Originally, the former French international coach was handed a 13-week ban, but after appeal the suspension was increased until June 3, covering both the European Cup and French championship finals.
“I am very happy,” Laporte said in a statement released on the club website.
“I thank them (LNR) for this gesture and I will see if I will return to all my duties as coach for the remaining matches or continue to deploy the same strategy we have used during my suspension with Pierre Mignoni and Jacques Delmas (his assistant coaches).”
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, who has also been in hot water with the authorities on previous occasions for outspoken remarks, said the LNR olive branch would be reciprocated, when he hinted the club would choose its words more carefully when it came to criticising things it did not agree with.
“It is a gesture by the League that we will take into account with regard to our future attitude,” said the comic book publisher.
“Bernard deserved to be punished, but I believe the penalty imposed was over the top. What has taken place today (Saturday) redresses the balance a little.”
Toulon are once again chasing a trophy double after defeating Racing Metro 16 – 6 last night to reach the Top14 final. Montpellier face defending champions Castres in Lille later today for the right to join the European champions in the Bouclier De Brennus decider.