Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has slashed his players’ holidays in the wake of their disappointing loss against La Rochelle on Saturday.
The three-time European champions were felled 23-20 by league leaders La Rochelle, but the fact the defeat came at Toulon’s home stadium, Stade Mayol, is a sleight too far for Boudjellal. As reported by Sport24, the comic book mogul initially banned his players taking holidays during their forthcoming three-week break during the opening rounds of the Six Nations.
Toulon’s next fixture is against league strugglers Lyon on February 18 and Boudjellal initially insisted that they could not take a holiday before the game.
He was quoted as saying;
“I was almost expecting to lose this game,” he said.
“Holidays are cancelled. I don’t care about airline tickets or anything like that, it’s their problem.”
Mike Ford, Toulon’s head coach, stepped in at that stage however, much to the relief of his players.
“I have spoken to Mourad. We will have a week of rest until February 5,” said Ford.
“But the players have to ask themselves if they were ready for the battle, for the war.”
The crisis has thus been somewhat averted, although a one-week break is hardly the opportunity to unplug that the players had been hoping for. The debacle in fact looks to be an interesting study in the pros and cons of signing for mega-wealthy French clubs, particularly Toulon.
The charade comes as All Blacks such as Ben Smith and Israel Dagg reportedly consider moves to France. While they are likely tempted by the greatly enhanced pay packets, the chance to enjoy the French lifestyle is also tantalising. Fellow All Blacks such as Ali Williams have been to Toulon and spoken at length about the longevity his career enjoyed purely due to how professionally Toulon managed his training and playing time. The prospect of Smith or Dagg enjoying similar treatment may have been tempered somewhat by Boudjellal’s outburst.
Signing for the likes of Toulon gives the player a chance to add to a spectacularly successful franchise in recent years. The first side to win the European Cup three years in succession, the club has attracted some of the sport’s biggest names such as Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell.
The prospect of plying their trade alongside players of such ilk is no doubt very tempting for the All Blacks in question, although the latest episode is a timely reminder of the capricious nature of owners such as Boudjellal, and its threat to a player’s lifestyle and career longevity.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena
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