The Heineken Cup winner had been acting in a consultancy role with the club this season and, with the club leading the Pro D2 league by 25 points with two games to go, his valuable skills were sought on a permanent basis.
The club had traditionally been one of the top teams in the country until they were relegated in 2005 under Dean Richards. However, this season, they showed a steely defensive resolve, conceding 13 tries in 27 games, an improvement on the previous year’s 30-try tally.
“I’m really excited by the opportunity. It’s a great chance for me to get on a pro coaching ladder and see the Top 14 up close,” he said,
“I’ll be bringing my family with me and hopefully my two kids, Ava and Ben, will learn the language.
“It’s a competitive league and with two games left in it five or six teams are in a relegation dogfight and there is a big battle to get into the Heineken Cup spots. It’s dog-eat-dog stuff.”
With a budget of €14.7m to play with he will be working alongside head coach Fabrice Landreau, himself a former France international hooker, to assemble a competitive squad. There will be a lot of pressure on the duo to succeed though, with home crowds of up to 23,000 guaranteed, particularly as Lyon and Bourgoin were relegated leaving them the only Top 14 side in the region.
But if it works out he might be lucky enough to return to Ireland some day in a coaching capacity.
“There’s not many jobs in coaching in Ireland full-time,” he said. “I wanted to stay in rugby and this was the opportunity. I’d love to get back to Ireland at some stage.
“But for now I’ve a big job to concentrate on. Next year, in the Top 14, 50% of squads must be French. We’re not going to recruit massively. It’s all about building a good team spirit and something solid to build from.”