Upheaval at Montpellier as Richard Cockerill sacked and disgraced bigwig hired

Jared Wright
Richard Cockerill, Montpellier President Mohed Altrad, and ex-president Bernard Laporte.

Richard Cockerill, Montpellier President Mohed Altrad, and ex-president Bernard Laporte.

Relegation-threatened Montpellier have undergone a huge upheaval in their coaching ranks after a disastrous start to the 2023/24 Top 14 season.

Club owner Mohed Altrad has taken drastic measures to turn Montpellier’s season around by sacking head coach Richard Cockerill and hiring disgraced ex-World Rugby vice chairman Bernard Laporte as the side’s new director of rugby.

This comes after the club won just one of their opening seven games of the new season, falling to six straight defeats.

Cockerill replaced by Patrice Collazo

Cockerill, who served as an assistant coach to Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick with England, joined Montpellier as their new head coach at the start of the season.

However, he has not been retained after the poor run of results and will be replaced by former La Rochelle, Toulon and more recently Brive coach Patrice Collazo.

Collazo heads to Montpellier just two weeks after being fired by Pro D2 outfit Brive and will be assisted by Vincent Etcheto, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, Christian Labit and Antoine Battut.

Meanwhile, Laporte makes his return to rugby after he resigned as president of the FFR and World Rugby vice-chairman last year.

His conviction for corruption prompted his resignations, having been found guilty of an illegal conflict of interests, influence peddling and four instances of passive corruption, notably involving Montpellier owner Altrad.

Saving the club

Upon arriving and confirming the new coaching team, Laporte stated that a three-hour meeting was held to piece the team together with the mission of saving the club from relegation.

Collazo is understood to have signed an 18-month contract with the side to set them on the right track, while Montpellier also confirmed that Laporte’s arrival has not resulted in Philippe Saint-Andre’s departure.

Saint Andre will remain in an advisory role with the Top 14 club going forward and will deal with “sovereign issues and ensure relations with the authorities.”

“We are convinced that Bernard Laporte is one of the best French rugby experts,” Altrad said in a club statement.

“In this sporting period, which is one of the most complicated that this club that I love so much has known, Bernard Laporte will have to strengthen cohesion within the collective. His support for our objectives and his passion for rugby make him the sports leader that the MHR urgently needs.”

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