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Toulon president airs frustrations about ‘handicap’ Eben Etzebeth

Toulon Eben Etzebeth

Toulon president Bernard Lemaître has taken aim at Eben Etzebeth, calling him a “handicap” for the club as he is regularly on international duty.

Etzebeth joined Toulon shortly after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but his appearances for the club have been limited in recent times, due to his regular involvement with the Springboks.

It shouldn’t be particularly surprising to Toulon that Etzebeth regularly features for South Africa, as he has been been a frequent starter for his country since he made his debut back in 2012 and the Springboks started selecting overseas players in 2018.

Nonetheless, Lemaître is clearly frustrated with Etzebeth’s international duties, arguing that him and Argentina international Facundo Isa are hinderances to the club in an interview with French publication Var-matin.

Toulon president on Eben Etzebeth.

“There is a double problem in recruiting: the salary cap and the JIFFs (foreign players who have spent time in French academies).

“You can’t do just anything, so I pay special attention to the situation of internationals because they can be an opportunity or a handicap,” Lemaître said.

“In this case, players like Eben Etzebeth and Facundo Isa are a clear handicap for the club. The policy of the XV of France is very clear and we know that some players like [Jean-Baptiste] Gros or [Gabin] Villière will be called up regularly. While for foreigners it is different.

“I spoke with Bernard Laporte who agrees with me: the league should work with World Rugby to prevent foreign countries from coming to the Top 14 supermarket to take the players they need for their selection.

“Or, if they do, there should be some compensation. These players get paid, cost the club full, and are used by someone else. This, even at the level of labour law, does not exist. There is a problem to be resolved.”

The three-time European champions are struggling.

Toulon are a shadow of their former selves, as they currently sit in 12th place in the Top 14 table, having won just four of their 12 league matches this season.

They are level on points with 13th placed Brive in the relegation zone, although they have played two games fewer than Brive and three games fewer than Perpignan in 11th place.

The three-time European champions weren’t in great shape last season either, as they finished eighth in the Top 14, but they have declined further this season, despite having several international-quality players on their books.

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