Quesada: A hard worker with an incredible attention to detail

Gonzalo Quesada finished his tenure at Stade Français with tears in his eyes.

Gonzalo Quesada finished his tenure at Stade Français with tears in his eyes.

Not that his own time coaching the Parisian club was coming to an end, but that one of his players had not been able to bow out in the way they had hoped.

It said a lot about the Argentinian, who will take over from Kieran Crowley as the Italy coach ahead of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.

Every coach endures their ups and downs but what can never be doubted when it comes to Quesada is his devotion to his players.

There is a level of integrity with Quesada that shines through. It is a major reason why he has enjoyed success in a variety of different roles.

As a player, Quesada was renowned for his unerring accuracy from the kicking tee – thanks in part to a preparation routine that might fall foul of the shot-clock timer introduced this season.

He finished the 1999 Rugby World Cup as the top points scorer as Los Pumas reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

A seven-year stint in France, playing for five different clubs, gave him a love of the country, and played a big role in his development as a coach.

Unsurprisingly, considering his background, Quesada made his way into coaching as a kicking coach, joining Marc Lièvremont’s French set-up in 2008.

While Lièvremont is remembered for his occasionally erratic selection decisions and an occasionally fractious relationship with senior players at the end of his tenure, he also oversaw the development of a crop of youngsters in the France team.

Les Bleus won a Grand Slam in 2010 and reached the World Cup final the following year, with Quesada taking on an increasingly influential role in France’s attack in the latter as Lièvremont took a step back.

After that tournament, Quesada moved to Racing 92, where he worked under another former Italy coach, Pierre Berbizier, before eventually succeeding the Frenchman.

In an interview with L’Equipe, Berbizier analysed Quesada’s qualities as a coach, saying: “Generally, the manager is the person who comes up with the project and the coach is the one who leads it. He has a global vision which allows him to do both. He is a hard worker, has a passion for the game and is very good when it comes to observation and analysis.

“He can work until he is ill. As a kicker he already had that obsessive side which was reflected in his routine before he kicked. That attention to detail, and taking his time, is something he has as a coach, for himself but also his players.”

A shift across the French capital led to Quesada’s first silverware as a head coach, leading Stade Français to a surprise title in 2015.

On that run, they peaked perfectly for the play-offs, with Quesada able to mesh some experienced leaders with a new group of emerging players.

It was a similar story when he returned to his native Argentina to coach the Jaguares in Super Rugby. Taking over from Mario Ledesma, Quesada led the team to a Super Rugby final in 2019, a remarkable achievement for a side that had only come into existence three years earlier.

In a country famed for the strength of its forwards, Quesada oversaw an expansive game plan with the Jaguares second only to eventual champions the Crusaders in terms of points scored.

While they could not conquer the Crusaders in Christchurch in the final, it was still a fantastic showing for the side.

With Covid preventing Quesada from building on that campaign, he returned to Stade, leading them back to the play-offs in two of his three seasons in charge.

Now, with Italy, the challenge will be similar to what he achieved with the Jaguares. He takes over a team on the rise, packed full of young talent.

In Michele Lamaro, Quesada has a young leader who has already established himself among the world’s best back-rowers, while Paolo Garbisi and Ange Capuozzo look tailor-made to fit in the sort of attacking game plan Quesada likes to employ.

Under Crowley, Italy have not been afraid to put their faith in youth, and that is in keeping with Quesada vision of the game.

And if his first comments after accepting the role are anything to go by, Italy’s progress over the next few years will be worth the watch.

Quesada said: “In recent seasons, Italy have improved greatly, building on their traditional strengths while developing an attractive game.

“Our exciting mission will be to guide them on this journey, working hard, respecting and developing the Italian culture and values, to allow this team to reach their potential.”

The first step towards reaching that potential for Quesada will be at the Stadio Olimpico in the Championship opener against England on February 3.