What The France? Jerome Daret reveals Les Blues’ secret sevens weapon

By Alex Dudley

France’s head coach Jerome Daret has finally revealed the secret behind the team’s incredible achievement of reaching consecutive finals in the HSBC World Sevens Series.

Although they were beaten in both finals – by South Africa in Vancouver and by Fiji in Hong Kong – the sheer speed of their improvement has been nothing short of stunning, with the talented French showing enough quality to win one of the remaining three tournaments.

The man behind the success has been unveiled as former Fiji coach Ben Ryan.

Speaking to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Daret confirmed that he was working with Ryan to build the team’s consistency.

He said: “He has been helping us organise ourselves. We have made two finals now, and we have confidence. We added consistency this time. The spirit is good, and we are in good minds for the future. We are building a group, and we want to make it Tokyo.”

However, he did confirm with tongue in cheek, that Ryan stopped when it came to giving up any secrets about Fiji. He continued: “But he loves Fiji too much to have given us any secrets.”

Speaking to planet7s.com, Ryan recalled some of the most significant changes that have been made with the team.

“We basically replaced three or four players who didn’t have the right attitude,” said Ryan. “Also, previously they were put up for nine months in a training facility which they didn’t like, and it affected their personal lives and sometimes relationships with partners.

“We took them out of that and only got them to train when it is needed.”

Ryan emerged as a hero in Fiji after leading the Pacific Islanders to the Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games. It was Fiji’s first-ever medal at the Olympics and the squad returned home to a hero’s welcome with Englishman Ryan gaining chieftain status and also having his image engraved on to a Fijian 50-cent coin.

He also wrote a book on his experience coaching the side, detailing the hurdles he had to overcome and the effect his dedication to the cause had on his personal life. The book, Sevens Heavens: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream, is rated as one of the best-ever rugby union reads. After leaving the Fiji post, Ryan has been travelling the world helping teams with his coaching expertise as well as acting as an ambassador for HSBC.

We will find out this weekend whether France can make further use of Ryan’s expertise and reach a third consecutive final when they compete in the Singapore leg of the series. They will take on an undecided wildcard as well as Australia and Argentina in Pool B.

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