Earlier this week L’Equipe claimed reported that Facundo Isa will become Toulon’s seventh superstar signing ahead of the 2017/18 season.
Although the Argentinian back row forward was expected to join Toulouse, Mourad Boudjellal stepped in with a more attractive offer at the last minute.
Despite the fact that nothing has yet been confirmed, Toulon fans can be forgiven for feeling a little giddy about the arrival of Isa, whose immense power has the ability to transform what has been a disjointed back row this season.
Indeed, with Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Juan Smith coming toward the end of their careers, Mamuka Gorgodze moved into the second row and Duane Vermeulen struggling to overcome a series of persistent injuries, Toulon have struggled to field a balanced back row for some time.
Nevertheless, If Isa does ultimately move to the Stade Mayol, he is likely to partner Liam Gill and Vermeulen in an intimidating and mobile back row that also holds Samu Manoa in reserve.
Of course, the 25 times capped Puma won’t be the only player arriving at Toulon, as Boudjellal quickly rebuilds his squad for another assault on Europe.
Already Toulon have confirmed the capture of Chris Ashton, Hugo Bonneval, Semi Radradra and Luke McAlister among a number of other low key signings.
However, in order to make room for these new arrivals, Toulon will have to release some of their biggest names.
[tie_slide]1. Matt Giteau
Arguably the best and most consistent performer of the Boudjellal era, Matt Giteau will almost certainly leave Toulon at the end of the season after the club’s enigmatic owner told Rugbyrama; “He has asked to be released, Giteau will go to Japan”.
Toulon will find it hard to replace the Australian who offers creativity and experience in a backline that has lacked imagination in his absence.
Giteau’s departure will mark an end of an era for Toulon, who will find it difficult to replace a player who has been at the centre of their success in recent years.
[tie_slide]2. Juan Smith
Having previously announced his retirement in 2013 due to a persistent Achilles injury, Juan Smith will either hang up his boots for good at the end of the season or return to South Africa for one last stint with his beloved Cheetahs.
This time last year the 70 times capped Springbok back row was convinced to remain at the Stade Mayol for another season, but made it clear to Sport 24 that he’d like to spend his final season in South Africa.
I would like to spend my last season with Free State. I’m going to play in France for one more year and if my body allows it, I’ll retire in the Free State after that.
Like with Giteau, Smith’s departure will bring the curtain down on a prolific period for Toulon.
[tie_slide]3. Drew Mitchell
With Semi Radradra on his way to Toulon, Drew Mitchell looks to be heading back in the opposite direction after reported interest from the Waratahs.
Although nothing has yet been officially confirmed, according to Australia’s Sunday Telegraph, the Australian Rugby Union made contact with the 71 times capped Wallaby last December with the view of returning Mitchell to New South Wales next summer.
Indeed, The Australian gave credence to such reports, stating that “Mitchell intends to leave French club Toulon and return to the Waratahs where he played from 2010 to 2013”.
[tie_slide]4. Maxime Mermoz
As has been well reported at this point, Maxime Mermoz will leave Toulon and join the Leicester Tigers in the coming weeks on a short term deal.
Although little is known of the centre’s long-term plans after his stint at Welford Road comes to a conclusion, a return to Toulon remains unlikely.
Last summer the 35 times capped French centre almost joined Bordeaux Begles, only to be convinced to remain at the Stade Mayol for another season.
Interest in Mermoz should therefore be high, as he looks to regain his place in the French national team.
[tie_slide]5. Leigh Halfpenny
Although The Guardian believe Toulon have offered Leigh Halfpenny a contract worth £700,000 per year to remain at the Stade Mayol, it’s looking increasingly likely that the fullback will return to Wales next summer.
If Halfpenny were to remain at the home of the three-time European champions, he would be putting his international career in jeopardy as the WRU have promised that Gatland’s law will be stringently imposed.
Indeed, Halfpenny’s situation has been further complicated by Liam Williams’ decision to join Saracens, as the Welsh management are restricted to selecting three players plying their trade outside of Wales.
If Halfpenny does decide to turn down Toulon’s massive offer, then the Cardiff Blues look set to profit.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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