Benjamin Thiéry, new USON Nevers defense coach: “The notion of sacrifice is essential”

Former Bayonne, Biarritz or Montpellier player, French international in 2007 and 2008 (4 games), Benjamin Thiéry (38) joined the USON staff this summer, after three years at the head of the Bayonne team. He succeeds Coenie Basson, who has been in charge of the Neversoise defense since the 2017-2018 season.

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Are you reaching unknown territory in Nevers?

No, that’s for sure. Xavier Péméja was my coach in Bayonne. I know Guillaume Jan very well and also the president, with whom I have had friendly exchanges for several years. I discovered this club over ten years ago. I even started the Pré-Fleuri, for a match against Dijon (in 2012).Benjamin Thiéry, in 2012, to start a USON match, against Dijon, in Federal 1. Photo Fabien Belloli

I admire everything that has been done in Nevers since then. I was also in the stands during the semi-final against Lille in 2015 – seventy-eight minutes of madness before a cruel end. At that time he had former colleagues at USON, such as Paul Bosch or Johan Wasserman. So yes, it’s an environment I’m familiar with, especially as I’ve also come to spend a week with the squad during my coaching training.

What are your first impressions of the band after four weeks of work?

I found a very close group, as we could see last season. It is the engine of a good defense, the notion of sacrifice for the team is fundamental. We can have the best strategy, it won’t work if we don’t have the right fuel. I arrive in a group that already has good defensive references thanks to Coenie’s work. If Nevers played a semi-final last season it is because the group was very healthy. I try to contribute my ideas and my vision, but the foundations are solid. Even when the mood is excellent, you have to work to maintain it, but it’s all brilliant to put it in place. There are new players to integrate and in a team combat sport you need to make sure everyone is going in the same direction.

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It is a general philosophy that must then be adapted to a club and to different players, in constant evolution. Modern rugby requires you to always be on the move.

As a coach, have you always had a special taste for defense?

For three years I was on the staff of the training center in Baiona. With many good ball players, very skilled, which corresponds to the identity of the club. But there were things to put in place at the defense level, which I had also developed to pass my diplomas. So I launched a project around defence, which was valued as some aspects were taken over by the professional staff.

When I had my interview in Nevers, I presented a defensive project and Xavier gave me his confidence because it also corresponds to the USON game. It is a general philosophy that must then be adapted to a club and to different players, in constant evolution. Modern rugby requires you to always be on the move.

Discipline, already a strong point

A good defense is also a disciplined defense. How to advance in this sector?

We will regulate discipline throughout the week, especially as we are lucky enough to have a referee with us every day. In all the offsides, USON was already the team with the fewest penalties. There are always areas to optimize, such as rucks, but I consider that discipline was already a strong point of USON. Benjamin Thiéry changes some defensive habits of USON Nevers.

Coenie Basson gave voice on the edge of the field or in the stands. What will Thiéry’s style be?

I give a lot of responsibility to the players. Some will be relieved to regulate defensively. We’ve been preparing all week for this to unfold. During the matches we have moments to intervene, at halftime for example. If we have to raise our voices, we will too.

You feel that the players are receptive to the changes you introduce

We’ve destructured certain things, so we’re changing some habits. Players have to adopt new reflexes, we were learning so far. But I believe there is support for the new features implemented. We are in training (from Monday 25 July) and now I will be much more demanding so that we can act quickly. The preparation games are coming, we don’t have time anymore. The tone will be different than the first few weeks if he doesn’t respond.

Guillaume Clerc

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