RUGBY

Philippe Saint-André on his way back to Gloucester?

Gloucester Rugby have refused to comment on reports that former France head coach Philippe Saint-André could be set for a return to Kingsholm.

According to the French newspaper L’Équipe, Saint-André has been contacted and could join at the beginning of next season.

However, any move for the 49-year-old would be subject to the confirmation of a rumoured takeover from Syrian billionaire, Mohed Altrad.

Altrad has recently expressed an interest in purchasing a 55% stake in the Cherry and Whites and thus become the majority shareholder of the Premiership side.

There are potential issues surrounding the prospective takeover, however.

Mohed Altrad's takeover of Montpellier in 2011 has seen the French club's fortunes increase considerably as a result of his financial backing.
Mohed Altrad’s takeover of Montpellier in 2011 has seen the French club’s fortunes increase considerably as a result of his financial backing.

Scaffolding billionaire Altrad already owns Top 14 side Montpellier and it is unclear as to whether he would be able to become the majority shareholder at Kingsholm alongside his role at the French club.

The Syrian’s interest in Gloucester rests in the hands of some of the sport’s authorities, namely the French Rugby Federation, England’s RFU (Rugby Football Union) and EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby).

Under current RFU regulations, Altrad would be unable to become the majority shareholder at Kingsholm, as according to the RFU regulation 4.2.1 on Ownership:

No individual, body corporate or partnership, trust or any other entity (‘Entity’) may directly or indirectly own or control more than one Club except with the prior written consent of the RFU.

There could also be the possibility of his involvement with both sides being deemed as a conflict of interest, given the two clubs’ possible meeting in European competition.

However, if Altrad was to assume control of the Cherry and Whites, the likelihood of a return to Kingsholm for Saint-André would increase.

Saint-André's last game at the French helm saw him taste defeat in a huge loss against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup Quarter Final.
Saint-André’s last game at the French helm saw him taste defeat in a huge loss against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup Quarter Final.

If the move were to happen, L’Équipe have suggested that the ex-France head coach could bring Olivier Azam with him as part of his coaching staff.

Azam spent ten years at Kingsholm across two spells, initially joining Saint-André at Gloucester in 2000 before leaving for Clermont Auvergne in 2003.

The ex-France hooker then returned to the Cherry and Whites from Central France after just one season and stayed for a further seven years, before returning to his homeland to take up a role as Toulon forwards coach.

Saint-André himself has been out of rugby since his final game in charge of France in the 2015 World Cup, where a humiliating 62-15 defeat against New Zealand signalled the end of his four-year tenure.

However, contact from Altrad has ignited rumours of a return to rugby for the 49-year-old and a director of rugby role at Kingsholm for the 2017-18 season.

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