Rugby: Smith takes flak for poor Lyon season

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Former Edinburgh coach Tom Smith has conceded that he bears some of the responsibility for the latest disappointment in a disastrous campaign to date for French second 
division outfit Lyon.

Smith and his fellow coach Xavier Sadourny have come under increasing pressure after their side, touted as promotion favourites before the season started, made a dismal start to the ProD2 campaign. Bolstered by the arrival of international stars including Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal, Lyon were targeting an instant return to the top flight. However, they currently trail runaway leaders Oyonnax by a massive 24 points, and all hopes of landing the title are already gone.

The tension at the club grew last week when Lyon president, Yvan Patet, resigned. His replacement, Yann Roubert, instantly reaffirmed his faith in the coaches, but French rugby bosses are not known for their patience, and there have been further grumblings among supporters after Sunday’s 22-8 defeat away to Tarbes, which leaves them in eighth spot and showing eight losses in 16 matches.

Smith was honest enough to acknowledge that accountability for the pack’s shortcomings in their latest outing could be apportioned to him.

“In the first half, we were dominated in the lineouts and scrums”, he said. “When you don’t have the ball all you can do is defend. The fact that it didn’t work is undoubtedly my responsibility.”

With the winners of ProD2 securing automatic promotion, and the next four teams playing off for the other ticket to the Top 14, Smith’s men can now only hope for an upturn in fortunes when the leagues resume early in the new year.

The 41-year-old former Scotland and British Lions prop admitted that having no fixtures scheduled for the next two weeks will allow the coaches and players some time to reflect on their performances so far.

“The break has come at the right time. We all have to take a look at ourselves”, he stated.

In contrast to Smith’s travails, former Edinburgh flanker Scott Newlands is enjoying a rich vein of form at Oyonnax, while scrum half Mike Blair has helped Brive into third place.