Earlier this season it looked as though Toulon had reached a cross roads.
Although they had enjoyed an unprecedented period of success, Toulon possessed an ageing squad who were being led by Diego Domínguez, a coach dangerously out of his depth, and Mourad Boudjellal was openly considering selling the club.
However since Mike Ford appointment at the Stade Mayol, Boudjellal seems to have found renewed vigour and has dispensed with the notion of selling Toulon. This in turn only means one thing – another massive summer of transfer activity in the south of France.
Although Toulon don’t appear to be in the running for players such as Aaron Cruden, they have nonetheless invested in a squad that could look radically different next season. Indeed, when the three time European Champions kick off their 2017/18 campaign, they could be without Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, both of whom have been linked with moves back to Australia.
Where once Toulon only signed players who were coming toward the end of their careers, they now appear to be looking at the likes of Liam Gill, François Trinh-Duc and Josua Tuisova as long term squad members.
This doesn’t mean Boudjellal has abandoned his policy of signing ageing galacticos, more that the comic book magnate has realised that such a policy is not sustainable in the long term. Consequently, Toulon have already agreed to sign a variety of players ahead of the 2017/18 season.
[tie_slide]1. Chris Ashton
After being handed a 13 week ban for biting Northampton Saints prop Alex Waller, Chris Ashton immediately declared his displeasure at the sentence and began to look for a way out of Saracens and England.
Boudjellal was quick to take advantage of Ashton’s situation, offering the winger the chance to play in France next season.
[tie_slide]2. Hugo Bonneval
With question marks hanging over the future of Leigh Halfpenny, Toulon have been forced to move for Stade Francais’ Hugo Bonneval as an option at fullback.
The 26 year-old has spent his entire career thus far with the Parisian club, so a move south might come as a bit of a shock. Nevertheless, with Halfpenny being tempted back to Wales and Ayumu Goromaru finding it difficult to adapt to the Top 14, Bonneval could very quickly become Toulon’s first choice fullback.
[tie_slide]3. Luke McAlister
Last week the French rugby media confirmed Luke McAlister would be joining Toulon from Top 14 rivals Toulouse. Considering the former All Black is 33 years of age, news of his transfer can as a bit of a surprise.
Nevertheless, McAlister will bring some much needed creativity to a side that has solely begun to rely on it’s power in recent seasons.
What’s the point in having top class finishers out wide if Toulon can’t put them into space?
[tie_slide]4. Filipo Nakosi
Brother of the frighteningly talented Josua Tuisova, 24 year-old Filipo Nakosi will join Toulon from Pro D2 side Agen next summer.
Like his brother, Nakosi is devastatingly quick, has immense upper body strength and plays with the freedom you would expect of a Fijian sevens players. Such is the pace of Tuisova and Nakosi, they could very easily allow Toulon develop into a counter attacking team next season.
[tie_slide]5. Semi Radradra
Although there maybe confusion over whether or not Semi Radradra has in fact joined Toulon, the French club maintain that he has. While the Australian rugby league international has denied signing a contract with Toulon, according to the Australia’s Daily Telegraph, the Fijian born player has not committed to the Parramatta Eels beyond 2017.
Radradra also expressed a desire to make the switch to union once his contract with the NRL side expires, fuelling further suspicion that his move to France is all but sealed.
Even though signing rugby league converts can at times be a bit of a gamble, Radradra does come with a great deal of pedigree, having been named as the Telegraph’s winger of the year in 2015 and 2016.
Despite already making five additions to their squad, Toulon’s recruitment drive is not yet over, as Boudjellal has very publicly promised fans he would sign eight players before the the 2017/18 season kicks off.
Ominously, the identity of the remaining three players are is not yet known.
— RCT – RC Toulon (@RCTofficiel) November 28, 2016
We review the festive fixtures and look back on 2016 – The Year That Was