DAVID JOHNSTON, French Coach: “We lacked experience, but next year…”

The French Boys National Team Coach: “Our main purpose is to work on a few good players who can integrate and strengthen our senior team”

02 december 2017

Can you draft a balance of the team event, with your France’s boys ending up in fifth place?

David Johnston: “It is difficult to be happy with 5th place, because we were very close to the podium, and we only fell 2-3 against Japan. In the group stage we lost against China and won against India, which is normal. Then in the most important match against Japan we came back to 2-2 after a complicated start (0-2) and eventually lost 2-3. At 2-2 we truly believed we had a chance to win. I honestly think there is a little gap between them and us but it is frustrating. We actually had a tough draw but sometimes it happens. I would have liked to see my players against another team not in the World’s Top2; that would have probably been open to all outcomes. Then we managed to bounce back by finishing at the 5th place and this is a good thing. Last year we had finished in 7th place with a more competitive team. Next year we will have the same players for this competition, so this is encouraging in order to achieve the podium”.

The French youth’s model is probably the best in Europe with the German and Romanian ones. By the senior, there also are great results especially recently with Simon Gauzy. In your mind, what is the next step to destabilize China’s hegemony?

“This is a good question. We have to point out that we are talking about different generations. In comparison with my juniors, Simon Gauzy is from another generation as well as Tristan Flore and Alexandre Cassin. In France we always have a good density of players because our formation works well. There are a lot of good players. In our case, the important thing is to identify the best, and focus on them to get better. The problem is that we do not have enough resources to do this. In France there is not a big difference between number one and number ten, for instance. So we do not have always the same players in the international tournament and we see now that this generation misses some experience”.

Talking about the rules, since the 1st October 2016, in the World Tour Circuit, coaches can now give advices to their players during the set. In the French Championship (PRO A & B), this rule has already been adopted for the season 2017-2018. What do you think about this new regulation? Does it make a difference for you?

“First, this is a good thing for the referees. Some coaches were already doing that before and we felt tension because referees always had to control this thing. Sometimes, because of the different languages, we did not know if a coach was advising or encouraging his player. It is more relaxed now. Personally, I like it because it gives a more important role to the coaches. We are more involved in the game. Then, I do not always speak to my players, but only when I feel it. Anyway, this is an interesting rule”.

Is it correct to say that your biggest goal is to bring your young players at the 2024 OG in Paris?

“In my position, I hope that one of the junior in these 2-3 years can manage to play at the OG in 2024, because it represents the perfect timing. But there is place only for four players at the OG and like I said before there will still be Gauzy, Robinot and others. It will be hard to move them out of those sports. But yes, this is an objective. Anyway my role is to sustain the senior France team. My work is not to have many good players but a few very strong and prepared to integrate the senior France team”.

Luca Anthonioz

Photo: David Johnston
Credits: Remy Gros