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Laporte favourite for France
Paris
November 17, 1999

Bernard Laporte of Stade Francais is favourite to take over as France coach after Jean-Claude Skrela quit just over two weeks after leading his side to the World Cup final.

Skrela, 50, who guided France to the Five Nations grand slam in 1997 and 1998 but saw his side finish as wooden spoonists this year, came to his decision on Monday after discussions with French federation president Bernard Lapasset.

France beat tournament favourites New Zealand 43-31 in the World Cup semi-finals but lost to Australia 35-12 in the final.

Stade Francais president Max Guazzini admitted he was unlikely to stand in the way of Laporte, who coached the club to last year's French league title and this year's domestic cup, should he be offered the national job.

Laporte is under contract at the club until 2004 but Guazzini said: ``Can one really refuse someone such an honour?

``Bernard has a great chance to be chosen. But I do not have confirmation. only know that if he is named we will have to make other arrangements.''

Richard Astre, a former captain and scrum-half for France in the 1970s, and Philippe Sella, who earned a world record 111 appearances for his country, are other contenders for the job.

Lapasset is expected to make a decision on Skrela's successor next weekend.

French team manager Jo Maso said of Skrela's departure: ``We discussed daily the best decision to take.

``I respect his decision but I am sorry Jean-Claude is going. He achieved a lot: two five Nations grands slams, two Latin Cups and a World Cup final.

``But he has not come through unscathed _ he lost six kilos this year.''

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