Xavier Garbajosa: “I learned that you first had to adapt to a context”

This is a Rhone coach excited by the magnitude of his new task which has been projected into his big comeback season on the benches of the top 14, drawing lessons from his previous experiences.

After two seasons off the field, you succeed Pierre Mignoni, the man who embodied the Lyon project for seven years. The pressure will be very strong…

I don’t see it as pressure. I arrive at a healthy club that has been built step by step. Pierre, the president and the Ginon family have done a lot, and that contributed to my coming. There is no pressure, just a desire to do well, to continue this project, to develop the image of the club, to establish this culture and this identity. In fact, I mostly feel pleasure and excitement. I really wanted to rediscover that atmosphere, to plan training, to talk about rugby, to talk to the players, to the staff… I missed it. I discovered an enthusiastic and fresh group after five weeks on holiday, I was even pleasantly surprised by the state of form of the boys on the way out. Everyone had played the game.

What did you think of Lou’s season?

Lyon probably lacked freshness at the end. It’s hard to have it both ways. Winning the Challenge Cup took a lot of energy, probably a little too much to reach the target set for the Top 14. The European title was a form of relief, a great thing for the club, the squad, the players, the public, and rewarded a very good season although unfortunately the goals shown in the championship were not achieved.

Could Lou favor one competition over the other this season?

The president made it clear: the priority goal is to find the final stage of the Top 14. Having said that, we cannot tarnish a European Cup, even less when we have the opportunity to play Saracens and Bulls. The European target will be adjusted depending on the results. We know the specifics of this formula: if you lose the first game at home, you know that the classification is complicated. We will take it into account.

Your arrival coincided with a certain reorganization of the staff, specifically the release of David Attoub. Why did you make this decision?
All positions of responsibility lead to making decisions, because no one can make them for you. In my first thought, there was no reason to make changes at squad level, especially since in March the urgency and priority necessarily went to the recruitment of players. Except that after analysis, certain internal and external elements prompted me to ask myself questions. This reflection led me to make this decision, which is personal. It’s never easy, especially when you have to tell someone who is fundamentally a good person and a good guy. But I did it with soul and conscience, because the interests of the club and the institution must remain everyone’s priority.

What about the departure of S├ębastien Bourdin?
Pierre Mignoni has always been very honest with S├ębastien, and he told me from the beginning that he would definitely follow him. Having said that, it was necessary to look for his replacement, which was not easy since in March-April, all the clubs have more or less made the purchase. But we managed to find a shoe that fits us with Pierre Lassus, who has a lot of experience and is coming up on a full season with Mont-de-Marsan. It seems to me that with his arrival we have a very interesting squad, with a young and competent physical pool.

You have repeatedly insisted on the notion of identity. From the outside, what image did you have of Lou?
This opportunity to manage the Lou is all the more interesting to me, as the game played there suits me in every way. I was brought up in the game on the move and as such, the game of Lyon speaks to me, this identity and this culture correspond to me, it was very important in my choice to come here. Afterwards, it would be pretentious to say “I’ll bring this or that”. I have my personality and my culture, but my experience has shown me that you must first know how to analyze a context and an environment in order to adapt to it. Only after this observation time has passed and after I have exchanged with my staff will I look to contribute a little more, with my convictions, to improve certain sectors of the game.

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