PARIS, FRANCE – With the Six Nations rugby tournament just under way and the NFL season winding down with the Super Bowl later today, I thought it might be interesting to look at two of the new respective impact coaches; Philippe Saint-André of France’s Les Bleus. and Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers.
Saint-André took over the French squad after the 2011 World Cup, with his official introduction on December 1st. The Six Nations is the first international tournament for the French squad since he has taken the reins, and his goal is nothing less than to bring back the Six Nations Trophy back to France.
Jim Harbaugh on the other hand, will not be coaching a team in the Six Nations. Nor will he be coaching in the NFL this weekend. Instead, he will be sitting at home watching the Super Bowl with his friends and family, despite turning his team into the NFC West Champions and making the NFC Championship in his rookie season. Prior to helming the 49ers, Harbaugh was the head coach for Stanford University. But when Harbaugh took the San Fran job, he had one goal in mind: the NFC West crown. And despite the giggling from within his own organization, he accomplished just that – in astonishing fashion.
Both Saint-André & Harbaugh were successful players in their own specific sports (both thrived in blue) and took the reins of teams with high expectations.
Saint-André’s very successful playing career included time playing for France (nationally) and Gloucester Rugby (professionally.) While Saint-Andre was captain for France they were at their prime, winning both Tests while on their 1994 tour of New Zealand. Saint-Andre also retired as the second-highest try scorer in France’s team history.
Harbaugh came into the NFL in 1987 drafted 26th overall by the Chicago Bears. But, Harbaugh did not find his success in his career until he was with the Indianapolis Colts, and came within one dropped pass away from the Super Bowl. In 1995 Harbaugh took the Colts to the AFC Championship, where he had his best season. Harbaugh earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and finished second in the MVP voting.
If Saint-André can coach France to 2nd place in the Six Nations, he will pretty much be a disappointment in French rugby circles, while Harbaugh can do no wrong in The City By The Bay. His 49ers’ 14-3 record got his squad within a few special teams miscues of the Super Bowl. To equal that success in the shorter Six Nations tourney, Saint-André must bring home the RBS Trophy.
Can Philippe Saint-André make the transition like Jim Harbough did and steer Les Bleus to the Six Nations title? Only time will tell, but after yesterday’s dismantling of Italy, he’s one step closer. What say you?