After three major setbacks at the start of his season, the Parisian coach plays big, Saturday, by welcoming Custer against Jean Bowen.
How did the Stade Français go after the defeat in Toulon?
Gonzalo Quesada: In fact, it’s 48 hours a week. This is the difficulty when you play outside on a Sunday evening and then go the following Saturday at 3pm. We arrived on a Monday around 4pm in Paris, left for recovery on Tuesday, and only had one meeting. We rehearsed a little Wednesday, Thursday and Friday a little bit, we just stopped. In 48 hours we tried to get to the point, to recover well to prepare for this very important match (Saturday against Custer). It’s going well, we have fewer sick players, even if there are many who are still coughing. But it’s doing better than last week, that’s the good news. We’ll be in better shape than in Toulon.
How is the atmosphere in the group? Tense?
We are obviously nervous in the sense that we don’t want to question everything. But we don’t lie to each other either. We were very clear and very honest with ourselves. We know some people saw us as prettier than we really are, but we didn’t play as well as we could. We did not reach the level required to compete in the first three matches. We didn’t dwell on excuses, we told the truth to each other. We straightened up without lying, while we were staying on the course. We didn’t throw everything away and we didn’t change everything. We know the top 14 is very tough. We were nervous after the derby defeat (against Racing 92), because after two trips after that, we put this into a complicated dynamic. We’ve been through those three matches, and we know there are some very positive moments in these three matches. On the other hand, we keep this image of the team putting themselves in danger alone. We made it very easy for our opponents. We know that we are going to play against a team that has not lost yet (two wins, one draw). They are in complete confidence, unlike our dynamic. We will be ready for this great challenge.
Our management of the game, which was a problem at the start of last season, still is. We do not hide.
Last year I went through a difficult period before finishing strong and participating in the finals. Are there lessons to be learned from this experience?
I have not read everything that is written about us, it hurts …(smiling) But you are right to be harsh and critical because our content is disappointing. But last year, we lost in Bordeaux, we lost the derby at home and in Toulon, and we qualified. We haven’t done a better job in terms of results. We are the same, but we don’t stop at the math. We were very average during our three games. It puts us on alert. I think there are very few teams that can be very regular, just three or four. Next there are ten clubs that have strong moments and weak moments. There are several reasons why our game doesn’t fully exist. There are things that need to be fixed quickly. Experience shows us that things go very quickly in both directions. We hope to regain some momentum in a few months. We know what’s at stake in the next match: a new defeat that will put us in a really complicated situation. We did not hide it from ourselves, but we try not to think about it. We need to regain our confidence and our state of mind.
Why couldn’t you navigate the good dynamics of last season’s end?
At the end of the season, we were hit hard in the back of the head. We rode the waves and suddenly there were no more waves… (smiling) The wave stopped in the ring, and we took the prosthesis in the teeth. There was the concept of trust that allowed us to do a good job. After that, not an apology, but our attack is less flexible than last season. It was built around the tenth and twelfth days. Joris (Segunds) and Leo Barry attacked the season late, we did 3-4 weeks without a 10. We quickly tried to make (New Zealand) Laumape understand that. The rugby we play in Europe. But he doesn’t necessarily speak French, and ten people are not English speakers. It took longer than expected. This may explain part (of our problems). Then, there are other reasons, especially about our readiness. We realize that we were not up to par. In net results, there is no shame in losing these three games. On the other hand, yes, we cannot afford not to increase our performance level by several degrees. We know he was pretty average, especially towards the end of the match.
Did the players give up at the end of the match? Is there a problem with the atmosphere?
I do not think so. In Bordeaux, we defend at the end of the first half when we are 14. There is only 6-0. There were many situations like this. On the other hand, we knew that the team, in weak times, could lose ground. It takes time to get standards. Not obtained at the end of the season. We have to work on these weak times. After three defeats, it’s complicated…but we have things we can build on: our scrum is interesting, our balls are portable too. After our management of the game, which was a problem at the start of last season, it still is. We do not hide.
Like all coaches, I have some weaknesses. But the strength is that I take care of what depends on me, the concrete. My players, our game, our staff, our season
When results aren’t good, the coach is the first fuse. Do you feel in danger?
honestly no. We exchange regularly with leaders on the field, players, staff, management, Thomas (Lombard, club general manager) and Dr Wild. We know that we must move forward quickly. Personally, I knew which club I would return to. Back with the players and staff in place. We had more than one season right. We were able to develop the club’s infrastructure, reorganize the staff, and rebalance the team for the future. We are in the process. After that, I admit that it’s dangerous for the coach to be distracted by it. Like all coaches, I have some weaknesses. But the strength is that I take care of what depends on me, the concrete. My players, our game, our crew, our season. I don’t allow myself to get polluted from the rest, that’s how we can go through complicated times.
Do you think you have a large enough workforce?
We lost three matches because we weren’t satisfied with our performance. But anyway, that’s a reason to say so. I think we have a good team. Is it enough to be in the top 14 teams all season and compete in the Champions Cup? We’ll see later. Today, we have a very good and balanced team. Again, we have a lot to do better.
Interview at a press conference
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