The trident took shape at the beginning of 2021 after the departure of Xavier Garbajosa and a very complicated first part of the season. Director of MHR rugby since March 2020, Philippe Saint-André had found a coaching suit, associated with Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Olivier Azam, who already worked in the previous squad. After saving Montpellier in the Top 14 and won the European Challengethe trio now lead a team top of top 14 four days from the end of the regular league and is about to face the Harlequins in the round of 16 of the European Cup.
Building on this success, all three men saw their contracts, which ran until June 2023, extended by two years. “We have been working together for fourteen months hand in hand, Saint-André explains. The three of us are versatile and complementary, “Jean-Ba” and Olivier take on many responsibilities in the field and I am very happy to continue with them. »
The two technicians have also been promoted to co-technical directors, which will not hinder their day-to-day activities, those who, for example, direct the training sessions where “PSA”, the “project manager”, “takes good care of people” (dixit Elissalde) and the general policy of the club. Specifically these numerous extensions of players registered in the season (Vincent, Willemse, Reinach, Serfontein…). Or the hiring for the next season of Leo Coly and another Louis Carbonel.
“I have a good feeling with this staff. At other times, I was the president. With these three I am a partner”
“We have a trio that works well, we wanted to continue, Azam said for his part. We went through difficult times last season, we all faced each other, we discovered ourselves humanly and with a lot of work from the players, we can see the result. It’s good to build over time because the level of competition is very tough. The objective, with this stability, is to leave the club where it wants to be, that is, very high. »
For President Mohed Altrad, more accustomed in recent years to the end of brutal stories with his staff than to extension announcements – “We learn, we grow, we draw conclusions”assured on this subject-, the logic was towards continuity, even if it means closing the door to technicians such as Yannick Bru and Pierre Mignoni, who have appeared on the market in recent months. “I have a good feeling with this staff. At other times, I was the president. With these three, I am a partner. There is that synergy in the club with these profiles that complement each other well, a squad that works very well and players in whom I also feel confident. 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 right to say we love the Brennus, a souri Mohed Altrad. Very smart 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 gave us a win, we also saw each other there and what happened happened (29-13 loss). Rugby is an inexact science so I will be careful not to say that we are going to be champions this year. We are first and we tell ourselves that we will have to win these last two or three games to be champions. But we have the will and the ambition to make it happen. I feel good this end of the season but it is not my current feeling that will make us champions. »