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New chapter for McCall at Castres

By Gavin Mairs

Just four weeks after he resigned as Ulster coach, Mark McCall today arrived in France to begin a new chapter in his coaching career with Castres.

It many regards it could look like a leap from the frying pan into the fire as the Tarn club are currently second bottom of the French Championship with just one win from their opening four games.

That poor record saw former Castres and French star Ugo Mola sacked as head coach at the weekend, following a 16-0 home defeat to Perpignan, with the club stating " rising dissent within the team and a bad start to the campaign," as the reasons for a change in the coaching set-up.

Alain Gaillard, coach of Castres from 1987 to 1994 and again from 1998 to 2001, has replaced Mola as the head coach.

McCall will join fellow Ulsterman Jeremy Davidson, a former captain at Castres and regarded as a legend in the region, in the management set-up to help coach the backs until the end of the season.

For McCall, the opportunity represents the perfect opportunity to dip his toe back into coaching without the responsibilities that come with the head coach job and away from the goldfish-bowl existence in Northern Ireland.

His role doesn't start officially until next Monday but he attended his first training session today to meet the players, one of whom was the familiar face of Tim Barker, the former Dungannon lock who was recently released by Ulster.

McCall, who resigned last month after three-and-a-half years in the Ravenhill job, will relish the challenge of reversing Castres' fortunes, with still 23 league games to go. The French club have one of the bigger budgets in the Super 14 and will be desperate for a top six finish to ensure qualification for the Heineken Cup next season.

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