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Montpellier coach Bechu dies at 53
06:16 AEST Wed Jan 16 2013

Eric Bechu, the highly regarded joint coach of Top 14 side Montpellier, has died at the age of 53 after a long battle with cancer.

Bechu formed a dynamic partnership at Montpellier with former France captain and close friend Fabien Galthie, with whom he had played at Colomiers, and guided the unfancied side to the French championship final in the 2010/11 season where they lost to Toulouse.

"Eric Bechu has departed, battling as he always had done during his life, as he had always taught our players and the many others he had coached over the years to do," the club said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We will keep him close to our hearts, the victories, the defeats as well, and the extraordinary adventure that we experienced alongside him in the past few years.

"We will remember him for being a man of values: those of rugby and those of life as well.

"Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters at this painful moment. Farewell Eric."

Bechu, who played in the back row for Colomiers for 10 years, enjoyed his first success as a coach with Albi, taking them from the third division to the Top 14 in the 11 years he was at the helm.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in December 2011 and underwent an operation that sidelined him for four months, although he resumed his duties after that.

Montpellier's first match without him will be the crucial European Cup clash with Top 14 rivals Toulon on Saturday, when victory for Galthie's side will all but guarantee them a place in the last eight.