By STEVE BRADY
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE are suffering “untold damage” because of relegation from Super League, according to their coach Sylvain Houles.
Several of the squad have left, the latest being the club’s player of the season Chris Hankinson, who has joined Featherstone, hooker Nathan Peats (Huddersfield) and halfback Corey Norman (Lézignan).
In his first interview since agreeing to stay at Stade Ernest Wallon, Houles told League Express how he almost walked away from the French club following the devastation of the drop in his first attempt at coaching in the top flight.
But his love for the club, the persuasive powers of the owner and chief executive, the positivity provided by RFL strategic partner IMG and the prospect of a World Cup in his home country in 2025 made him sign on for a tenth season in charge.
“I needed a little bit of time, I’ve been here for nine years, from Elite One to Super League and now back to the Championship, so I had to be sure that this wasn’t the end of the cycle for me,” explained Houles.
“I had to consider whether the club needed a fresh approach to begin a new era.
“But my Chairman Bernard (Sarrazain) and CEO Cedric (Garcia) managed to convince me that it was right to stay.
“We’ve been together for a long time and we know the club inside out. We’ve had lengthy talks about what is needed to start again.
“I don’t want to let anyone down and that’s why I’m going to go again.”
The financial impact of relegation means Houles will have to do without his assistant coach Rémi Casty, who has left the club, plus a host of senior players who have already departed or are on the verge of signing for other teams.
But the 41-year-old former Toulouse player is ready to roll his sleeves up and rebuild for the club’s return to the second tier and the challenge of seeking a Super League return.
“Unfortunately, that is the effect of promotion and relegation, you sustain damage when you go down and you lose players and staff,” he added.
“There will be a huge turnover here before the start of next year in the Championship.”
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