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Friday, January 24, 2014

Toulon chairman Mourad Boudjellal on building the champion club

Fascinating insight from Toulon chairman, and the man credited with turning the club around, Mourad Boudjellal. He talks candidly about his previous involvement in rugby, his success in business and how Toulon now pay for the big stars without his help.

On a related note Leigh Halfpenny, who will be joining the club next season, has said that he still hopes to play for Wales despite being based in France. He said that Toulon being supportive of his international duties was one of the main deciding factors behind the move.

"Having taken time to consider every option in detail, I believe the decision to move to Toulon is the best decision for me and my continued development as a rugby player and as a person."

"I'm very excited about joining Toulon. They are an outstanding club, very ambitious, full of world class players and are the current European Champions so I'm very proud to have been given the opportunity to be part of that," said Halfpenny.

He'll join the likes of Bryan Habana, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Mathieu Bastareaud and Jonny Wilkinson, all of whom are there due to Toulon's recent success under enigmatic Boudjellal.

Extra: View a slightly longer version of the interview (UK only) on the BT Sport website

Posted at 2:00 pm | 27 comments

Viewing 27 comments

marty January 24, 2014 4:31 pm

New York Yankees of Rugby. Bad things will happen to french rugby in a couple years

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Eddie-g January 24, 2014 5:04 pm

@Marty - Why? If the tv money dries up, you might be right. But no sign of that happening, they just inked a big new 5 year deal with Canal+.

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matt January 27, 2014 9:37 am

The concern seems to be that clubs are using their incredible financial power to buy in established and developed talent from abroad or from less financially gifted clubs rather than producing and investing in youngsters so that they can grow and develop into the next generation of international stars. Because so many big name players are in the French club squads, there is no room for young up and comers to get a foothold in the professional game and are simply giving it up and will never move through the system to represent France.

I think English football is a crystal ball case for French rugby if they don't do something soon to reverse this system. Then again, I'm English, so if France become rubbish in 6 years time, that's fine by me.

I think there was a point made during last years 6N that in the whole top 14 there were only 2 French eligible wingers starting for their clubs, which somewhat led to the decision to play Fofana there.

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Reality January 24, 2014 5:12 pm

I think there's a spelling mistake in the title. Is it not spelled 'buying' rather than 'building'?

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Oceansnz January 25, 2014 12:59 pm

Its turning into the EPL. No player development, or stories about how xyz player overcame the odds and fought hard.

Just rich guys paying for players who were already good. Winning becomes meaningless.

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cheyanqui January 24, 2014 7:47 pm

French rugby is being "sodomized" by the likes of Boudjellal

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marty January 24, 2014 8:55 pm

What I mean Eddie-g is that rugby will become bigger and bigger, attracting even more foreign star players to big french powehouses and young french players won't get they're chance. By ''bad thingswill happen to french rugby'' I meant ''bad things will happen to the French national rugby level

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TotesMcGoates January 25, 2014 6:48 am

Gotta agree. I read during the week that of the forty guys in the French extended national squad, not one of them is the preferred kicker at their club. See Wilkinson, Mcallister, Steyn, Sexton, Kockett, James and the rest knocking penalties over in the Top 14 every week.

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TotesMcGoates January 25, 2014 11:59 am

Might be wrong on James. Parra might still be no 1 at Clermont...

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Colombes January 30, 2014 2:36 pm

wrong on mcallister >> doussain is now the kicker
still wrong on steyn >> plisson won his place

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marty January 24, 2014 8:56 pm

not to mention the way Bernard Laporte, the great, behaves regarding certain refs.

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DrG January 24, 2014 10:34 pm

Whilst it's sort of great seeing a fantastic team of mercenary stars, I have to agree with Marty. The French youth are going to be pushed aside to bring in foreign stars...

Instead of nurturing a young French full back, they're bringing in the likes of an already developed super star (1/2p). I know there are plenty of French club sides, but they might all have to follow suit to keep up with Toulon...otherwise they might as well just write Toulon on the next couple years trophy's now...

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finedisregard January 25, 2014 1:02 am

This is so interesting to me. Is Toulon the blueprint for things to come? In 10 years will players still ply their trade in their home/test country or will it just be an international market like football where the best players are the highest compensated?

I started playing two years before rugby went pro and I remember the guys arguing that mercenary style rugby would be the ultimate outcome of professonalism. It's taken 20 years but maybe they were right.

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matt January 27, 2014 9:41 am

Unfortunately I think the result will be that the youngsters in French rugby simply won't exist, their's no international market for an 18 year unproven performer with potential, and there's no space for them in France, so they're going to have to give it up and get a 'real job'

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Phil mc avity January 25, 2014 2:28 pm

People say Toulon are bad but Toulouse are doing the same, Mc Alister, Keleher, Johnston, they don't need them, nobody mentions Toulouse buying players. Ok Toulon is just (95%) mercenary players but Toulouse over the last five years have still brought in foreing stars. Yet the don't need them. Toulon are good to watch, I love seeing wilko with giteau (wilko in the 2003 world cup final dump tackled giteau who was sub) and to see the two playing together for me is brill. If all clubs follow Toulon yeah... french rugby will drop and maybe that will happen but you can't blame Toulon for "making other clubs do the same". Toulon can do what they want, ok it might be run by a billionnaire buying every ex star but if I were Toulouse manager I would go "come on Tolofua, Baille, Fickou, Medard..etc lets show France what the french are capable of". Theres no point in pointing fingers at Toulon, that will just hide the other teams slowly jumping on the band wagon.

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marty January 25, 2014 5:21 pm

Toulouse can almost align an all-french line-up and be successful (montès, tolofua, loosehead, maestri, millo-chlusky, nyanga, Dusautoir, picamoles, doussain, beauxis, fritz, fickou, Médard, huget, poitrenaud,...only a loosehead missing, because Guillamon isn't ready yet and mostly plays tighthead) in fact, it happens quite often. Can Toulon do that?

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cheyanqui January 25, 2014 7:03 pm

Arguably, Toulouse, Clermont, and Castres are the only H-Cup calibre teams in the Top 14 who can post an all (nearly all) French squad and be competitive.

I would also argue that many of the foreign players on teams like Clermont, Castres, and Montpellier come from countries with little or no significant professional league.

When these teams sign players from GEO, ARG, FIJ, are they really poaching or hiring mercenaries? If so, it is in the same vein of other teams chock full of players from SANZAR and the Home Nations?

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DrG January 25, 2014 10:46 pm

I don't see hiring players from GEO, ARG, or FIJ as hiring mercenaries, nor do I see them hiring players from anywhere else as 'poaching'. Players; rightly or wrongly, will go where the money is and lets face it, in all other walks of life, if you can be paid double to do the same work at no cost to your own well being then you're going to take the offer.

However it doesn't promote your own player platform. Obviously one or two to bump up your team isn't a big deal, but Toulon can be detrimental...

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DrG January 25, 2014 10:47 pm

I don't see hiring players from GEO, ARG, or FIJ as hiring mercenaries, nor do I see them hiring players from anywhere else as 'poaching'. Players; rightly or wrongly, will go where the money is and lets face it, in all other walks of life, if you can be paid double to do the same work at no cost to your own well being then you're going to take the offer.

However it doesn't promote your own player platform. Obviously one or two to bump up your team isn't a big deal, but Toulon can be detrimental...

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finedisregard January 26, 2014 5:31 am

Well the issue is when young promising players from countries like NZ (say the understudy for McCaw or Read) leave at 22 years old to play club ball in France and forget about Super 12, AB's, and NPC because they can make twice the money abroad they can make at home.

What happens to test rugby then?

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DrG January 26, 2014 7:00 pm

I assume (finedisregard) we'll end up with a mix of say French and NZ players making up the French International scene vs those whose heritage means more than money...

We're already seeing players ignoring chances to wear their countries shirt to follow money (again rightly or wrongly). If French clubs get richer then it'll happen more and more...

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matt January 27, 2014 9:45 am

I think the difference between Toulouse and Toulon is that Toulon has bought a squad of winners over 5 years, where as Toulouse have built one over 10 and bought in some glitter to put on top of it. I don't see the two clubs as comparable simply because of the time frame and the ratio of imported vs homegrown talent.

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marty January 27, 2014 8:48 pm

Absolutly right Matt. Just take a look at Toulouse's roster when they won the HCup (4 times). They always have a solid base of french players, internationals most of the time. And just look at Toulon's lost in term of young french players: Maestri and Fickou (now with Toulouse), Bruni (perpignan bound), Gunther (going probably to Lyon for more playing time), Palisson (Castres) just to name a few (still nonetheless)

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Murph E Slaw January 25, 2014 4:59 pm

Le Steinbrenner

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PhilGood January 28, 2014 12:30 am

I disagree completly with the "no new player training thing" Clermont's training center is very very well known and produces alone without counting the other training centers a big portion of the french national team or top 14 players.

And Mr. Boudjellal was a big part of the trigger to raise the top14 level. The canal+ contract make the top14 the most expensive tournament in the club world, and by far. If you look at the numbers it is also more expensive then super rugby and tri nations put together.

Club owners (old or new) have massively invested to keep up and be competitive. Just a few years back you had Toulon, SF and Clermont powerhouses then Toulon joined. This year Toulon is currently 7th and the rankings keep moving dramatically over the season. Impossible to put monney on who will claim the shield this year.

I personnally find it very exciting and EVERY game has become fun to watch. Also some proD2 clubs have done the same, raising the level of the 2nd division aswell.

All in all, Mr. Boudjellal is the type of guy that is easy to hate and hard to love. What worries me in the implication of french clubs in the H-cup as the shield is looked at as the holy grail in france. I am really excited to follow the end of this season and the ones to come.

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4LC4TR4Z January 28, 2014 9:08 am

On a larger point of view : there is an open war since 50 years between french clubs and their solid local fan base, and the french union with its Equipe de France.

Of course : rules of IRB are offering to Unions the domination over the clubs.
But the french clubs are fueling 90% of the Union money.
Laws use to call this proxenetism.

And overall this : the bloody war between Toulon (and some other rebel clubs), the LNR controled by the FFR, and the FFR itself was a reality a long, long time before Boudjellal !

Toulon supporters don't give a sh.t about the Equipe de France and the FFR who contempts the RCT since decades.

The flying newspapers throwed in Mayol, when the team get a bonus point, was created first as a reply message to Serge Blanco contempts on the press toward Toulon...

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john April 25, 2014 4:12 am

Toulouse does a great job at fostering young french talent, the islander hooker will be a true FORCE in the future and making starts for france already, also the replacement center for france is 21 and scored the winning try against england and plays for Toulouse

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