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The French rugby union pushes plan to mimic IRFU's central contracts system

Bernard Laporte has stressed the need for change in French rugby.

FÉDÉRATION FRANCAISE DE Rugby president Bernard Laporte says he is pushing forward plans for the union to centrally contract players in the wake of France’s defeat to Ireland yesterday.

In a FFR statement, Laporte stressed that French rugby needed to move to a system that mimics the one operated by the IRFU, where the leading international players are contracted directly to the union.

Yoann Huget dejected Yoann Huget and France were left disappointed yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

These plans are, of course, sure to be met by fierce opposition from the Ligue Nationale de Rugby [LNR], who represent the Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs – the current employers of France’s players.

However, FFR president Laporte – who previously had successful periods as the head coach of France and Toulon – insists that he has the support of France’s international stars.

Laporte was elected president of the FFR after a tussle with the longstanding boss Pierre Camou and has since brought fresh energy to the French union.

“France lost to a better Ireland team, which reinforces to me the ideas of my campaign, which are that we must do work on producing players but, above all, that we must implement the reform of federal contracts,” said Laporte.

The FFR president believes that union contracts will mean the national team “has [access to] the players more often, in order to have the atmosphere of a club team that you can sense when playing against Ireland.”

Laporte plans to centrally contract 40 players, which will naturally be hugely expensive for the FFR, although there is an intention to host an extra fixture against a Southern Hemisphere team every year to offset the cost.

The Top 14 clubs seem unlikely to simply accept Laporte’s propositions, but he says that the players have shown their support for a move to central union contracting.

“The players signed a commitment in Nice in which they support our reform on federal contracts. They agree with it and I’m happy because we must do these things together – the federation, the players and the presidents of the Top 14 clubs.”

This is certainly not where this story ends and it will be intriguing to see how the LNR reacts to Laporte’s insistence that he is pushing ahead with plans to contract players to the FFR.

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Murray Kinsella

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