France have thrown themselves into chaos ahead of the Six Nations as they are expected to fire head coach Guy Noves and his entire management staff next week, less than six weeks out from their Six Nations opener against Ireland in Paris.
The news is splashed across the cover of tomorrow's Midi Olympique, with former Italian head coach Jacques Brunel expected to be appointed as his replacement.
Tomorrow's Midi Olympique front cover! Guy Novès and his coaching staff expected to be out before the Six Nations. Jacques Brunel and two other Top 14 coaches set to take over. Confirmation due on December 27. pic.twitter.com/yUniGcoUqr
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) December 21, 2017
While the news is not official yet, it would be unsurprising. A miserable Autumn series heaped pressure on Noves, which ended with a 23-23 draw with Japan following a 38-18 defeat to New Zealand and an 18-17 loss to a South Africa side blitzed by Ireland the week previous. Noves' position has been under review since.
The Autumn series chipped away at signs of optimism from the 2017 Six Nations, in which France finished third and with the same number of points as Ireland and Scotland. This was a marked improvement on the 2016 competition, in which Noves' tea finished below everyone except Italy.
That Brunel might be the replacement is not a huge shock either. Having sealed the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Bernard Laporte's position at the top of French rugby is stronger than ever, and Brunel is his man, having served as his assistant during the Grand Slam-winning years of 2002 and 2004.
It might be time to tweak the old saying: you just don't know what French coaching ticket are going to turn up.