|Marc Lievremont has often been the first to criticise his side during their World Cup campaign [GALLO/GETTY]|
As the eldest of eight children, Marc Lievremont’s robust style in coaching the French rugby squad should perhaps surprise nobody.
His four-year reign has been seasoned by a no-nonsense, authoritarian manner – never more so than when he has felt ‘Les Bleus’ have let him down.
Certainly, Lievremont is a man who demands to be followed, and who feels comfortable scolding any who digress.
So far, so normal, it might be said.
That he has managed to use these tactics to cajole a frequently volatile French outfit to the World Cup final in
Auckland, however, is nothing short of astonishing.
“Cowards”, “Spoiled brats”, “Undisciplined”, “Always whinging”
Just a few of the terms Lievremont has used to describe his side
He has criticised his players before and throughout this World Cup, labelling some of them “cowards” after losing to Italy in last season’s Six Nations and others “spoiled brats” after last week’s semi-final victory over Wales.
Players who disobeyed him by celebrating that less-than-emphatic 9-8 win were publicly branded “undisciplined, disobedient, sometimes selfish”.
“They are always complaining, always whinging,” he told reporters, and at times his squad has appeared on the verge of revolt.
Rumours of infighting and squabbling bubbled constantly beneath the surface, while senior players have spoken out
Yet were his bickering rugby family to pull off a most unlikely upset in Sunday’s final against New Zealand at Eden
Park, critics will be silenced, scolded players salved and all will be forgiven.
Moment of truth
Lievremont has just one game – his final one in charge – to seal his position in French rugby history.
He is likely to either be remembered as a controversial, chaotic, sometimes eccentric gambler or feted a giant of French sport.
Born to a French military man in 1968 in Dakar, Lievremont’s rugby pedigree is a fine one.
A flanker, and great tackler in the mould of Serge Betsen, he was in the France team, along with his brother, number eight Thomas, that thrashed Wales 51-0 in 1998 – France’s grand slam year.
He played his last international in the 1999 World Cup final defeat against Australia and three years later his playing
career was ended by a knee injury.
|France celebrate as they reach the final after victory over Wales [GALLO/GETTY]|
The following year he started coaching at Biarritz, initially in charge of the Under-23 side, and the French Under-21s.
After helping Dax win promotion to the top-flight in France after two years in charge (2005-07), he was named France coach where he gave young talents Morgan Parra, then 19, Fulgence Ouedraogo and Francois Trinh-Duc their first caps during a period of oft-criticised experimentation.
Initially acclaimed by the French press, things went rapidly south for him, reaching a nadir at this World Cup.
Currently he is squarely positioned between the legacies of two French national soccer coaches – Aime Jacquet who delivered World Cup glory on home soil in 1998 and Raymond Domenech, who lurched from chaos to mutiny at last year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Yet, however bad it has got for Lievremont, however vile the media attacks, he knows that full redemption may be just 80 minutes away.
A reckless gambler with an ability to upset those around him or a master motivator and shrewd tactician?
All will be revealed at Eden Park on Sunday.