Wakefield Trinity Wildcats boss Richard Agar says he is “honoured” to be named the new coach of the French national team.
Agar was confirmed as France’s new head coach in Toulouse this morning and will combine his international role with his day-to-day job with Wildcats domestically.
He will lead France into the Rugby League World Cup later this year and his job will initially be until the end of the tournament, with his position being reviewed by all parties after.
The former Hull FC boss, now in his second season in charge at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium, admitted it was a surprise to get the call, but the challenge is one he is relishing.
“I’m very proud and very honoured to be offered the position to be a head coach of a national team,” said Agar.
“It was a little bit of a surprise. I got the phone call about a month ago and it was very kind of the club as both Andrew (Glover) and James (Elston) gave me their blessing to go and meet the French people to look at the levels of commitment and when I’d be required to be over there.
“I think it’s a great opportunity and an opportunity I want to take and be very proud to take. I think it’s a great time to be involved with them.
“I thought it was a super time with so many good players and the game as it is in France with the coaches that are currently working there, with the administrators that are involved and of course it’s a World Cup year as well. To be able to take part in a World Cup as a coach is something everybody has an aspiration to do.
“I am genuinely excited and I’m really pleased that I’m the person to head up their organisation and I’m sure I can help them along the way and make an impact.
Agar insists his role will not impact on his job as Wildcats head coach, saying that any meetings or training sessions he holds with his France squad will fit around his work with Wakefield.
The gap in the domestic fixture list for England’s clash with the Exiles in the international origin match will allow Agar time over in France with his troops, while he is also expecting to tie-in meetings when Wakefield visit Catalans Dragons in Super League next month.
“There is enough opportunity, and I’m saying this to the Wakefield fans and Wakefield players which I have spoken to about it. I wanted their support and I wanted the support of the board before I accepted the job. They won’t know I’m gone, it’s plain and simple.
“It will be done in and around time off and weekends if we don’t have a game or when there are bigger gaps in the calendar.
“At the end of the year I’ll be gone and out of the country for a few weeks but that’s the off season. I’m looking forward to it and it’s very, very important for people to know Wakefield is my bread and butter and what I’m passionate about.
“There’s no way I would have considered taking the job if I felt there was any compromise anywhere down the line and the French people know that too. We have worked out a very happy arrangement and we think we can make it work in terms of what we can commit to the team too.”
Wildcats chief executive James Elston said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Richard to work with some top class players and test himself against some of the best coaches in the world later this year,” said Elston.
“He takes the role with our blessing and knowing how hard he works, I’m certain he’ll make a success of taking the French side into a tournament that will be a tremendous showcase for the sport.
“It won’t impact his work with the club and we see the opportunity for Richard to develop as a positive not only for him, but the extra experience he will bring back can only be of benefit to our players and coaching staff.
“To be able to have our brand be involved with a World Cup was an opportunity I see as huge value to our continuing development. When Richard leads the French into games against New Zealand, PNG and Samoa he will be automatically taking our brand with him.”
Agar replaces Lezignan coach Aurelien Cologni, who took temporary charge during last year’s Autumn International Series with England and Wales, and is France’s first permanent head coach for a year, since Bobbie Goulding left the position.