Jake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.
This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.
The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.
Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis as well as Duane Vermeulen will further their careers in France after this year’s Rugby World Cup, respected French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique has revealed.
According to the newspaper, the official announcement regarding Vermeulen will only be made in July.
All Black legend Ali Williams vowed to spend his time fishing and hunting after announcing his retirement from the game.
The 33-year-old New Zealand international lock joined European and French champions Toulon at the beginning of last season, after a career spent with the Blues and Crusaders.
“I’ve enjoyed every day that I’ve played rugby and I’m still enjoying it to the end but my body’s said enough is enough,” said Williams.
“There’s huge motivation to go out on a winning note but like anything you can’t look to the prizes, you have to look to the processes for the next few months to try to get to the prizes.
World Cup-winning Springbok Bryan Habana is enjoying his stay in Toulon so much, he might extend it.
The 31-year-old, Player of the Year after equalling the record set for most tries in a World Cup, said discussions are underway to extend his contract the French and European champions when it expires in 2016.
His arrival in the south of France was marked by a groin injury that sidelined him for most of his first season.
Montpellier’s new coach, Jake White, arrested a nine-match slide for his French club by using his tried and tested method – going back to basics.
The South African, a former World Cup-winning Springbok coach, got off to a winning start as the Top 14 strugglers beat European and French champions Toulon 16-12 at the weekend.
White was brought in as a consultant to replace the suspended Fabien Galthie in an aim to stem the tide of losses in European and domestic action.
Club President Mohed Altrad, who caused so much controversy when he called Galthie a failure, was full of praise for White.
French centre Mathieu Bastareaud broke down in tears at the weekend and said he has had enough of his poor form.
The tearful 26-year-old opened his heart in an interview, following his side’s 6-30 humbling defeat to Stade Francais, that saw them knocked off top spot in the French league by their opponents.
“You have to know how to face up to things. Since the beginning of the season, I haven’t been able to find my form,” the bulky back, who has been capped 28 times by France, said.
The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.
So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .
Former Italy and Stade Francais flyhalf Diego Dominguez will be head coach of European and French champions Toulon when Bernard Laporte steps down after the 2015/16 season, owner Mourad Boujellal told Canal Plus on Saturday.
Dominguez, who has no experience of coaching at the top level, will join Toulon in January 2016 so as to gain experience of the inner workings of the club before replacing Laporte.
“I can say that Diego Dominguez will be Bernard Laporte’s successor,” Boudjellal said.
“He will arrive on 2 January 2016 and will work for six months with the staff to get to know the team and the club to make it a smooth transition.”
Toulon’s abrasive and controversial boss Mourad Boudjellal is once again threatened to go to court, because a decision did not go his way.
According to reports in the French media Toulon are considering legal action against the two Leicester Tigers supporters involved in a row with their England loose forward Delon Armitage.
Armitage was suspended for 12 weeks as a result of a misconduct complaint lodged against him, following his club’s European Champions Cup defeat against Leicester Tigers.
The 31-year-old Englishman – whose teammate, Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni, received a suspended four match ban and a fine for a post match rant – was found to have used offensive language towards spectators at Leicester’s Welford Road ground.
Western Province have brushed off reports linking lock Eben Etzebeth with a move to French giants Toulon.
French newspaper Var Matin reported over the weekend that the Springbok lock could join Toulon after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The 23-year-old Capetonian is seen as an ideal replacement for compatriot Bakkies Botha, who recently retired from international rugby and will leave Toulon at the end of the current European season.
Bakkies Botha could extend his stint at French club Toulon by a few months before calling time on his playing career.
The veteran Springbok lock last month announced his retirement from international rugby after representing his country in 85 Tests.
At the time, Botha said he would see out his contract with Toulon until the end of the current European season, before possibly finishing his playing career at a local Currie Cup team in 2015.
However, it appears Botha could extend his stint at Toulon by a few more months.
Two time Heineken Cup champions Toulon have accepted the challenge presented to them by the Cell C Sharks CEO, John Smit, to play the Cell C Sharks in a North vs South pre-season friendly.
The date for this clash has been set for Thursday 5 February 2015, at the Stade Mayol in Toulon.
We believe that in order to be the best you need to play the best. This match against the best European Rugby Club in recent history marks an ideal opportunity to fine tune our preparation for an important Vodacom Super Rugby season ahead.
Springbok lock and Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha has announced his retirement from international rugby.
Botha, who made his Test debut on 9 November 2002 against France in Marseille, while his 85th and final appearance for South Africa was last Saturday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.
During a stellar career, the 35-year-old lock won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2007 and was victorious at almost every other level of the game.
He has winners’ medals from the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (Tri-Nations), British & Irish Lions Series, Vodacom Super Rugby, Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, as well as the Heineken Cup and French Top 14.
Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time, is a three-time SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2003, 2004 and 2005) and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).
Toulon second row forward Romain Taofifenua has been cited, following the European Champions Cup Round Two match against Ulster last Saturday 25 October.
Faofifenua is alleged to have kicked the Ulster centre Stuart Olding in the head, in the 47th minute of the Pool Three game at Kingspan Stadium in contravention of Law 10.4(c).
Mourad Boudjellal is planning to take the IRB to court over payments to players on international duty in a groundbreaking move.
The outspoken Toulon president had already made his feelings clear erlier this season when he complained about having to pay the likes of Bryan Habana, Juán Martín Fernández-Lobbe and Bakkies Botha while they were away at the Rugby Championship.
And he has now revealed that he has the support of Premiership bosses in England ahead of a legal battle with the game’s governing body, who he has accused of an ‘abuse of power’.
“We’re in the process of speaking to our lawyers in Paris to see if we go to commercial or administrative court,” he told Var Matin.
“The IRB rules have no provisions for unions to pay the clubs for their internationals. Yet the IRB is made up of the unions.
All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu has been linked to French club Toulon as the European champions ramp up recruitment ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Respected French newspaper Midi Olympique claims Toulon are close to finalising a two-year deal with the veteran New Zealand midfielder.
Currently away with the Springboks, Bryan Habana hasn’t been distracted by the outlandish statements of Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon.
Habana will be in line for his 102nd cap against the Wallabies in Cape Town next weekend, but the Toulon owner earlier this week demanded that Habana along with Bakkies Botha and Argentina’s Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe return to play for their club.
Perhaps Habana wasn’t distracted because those kind of outbursts from Boudjellal aren’t new. In the same week he also raised the possibility of cancelling Leigh Halfpenny’s contract.
“It’s not up to me to decide on going back. We have the right lines of communication. SA Rugby have been working hard behind the scenes to address the rumours that have been going around this week,” Habana exclusively told Planet Rugby.
Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.
Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”
Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has demanded that Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha quit the Springboks’ current Rugby Championship campaign and report for club duty.
Toulon recently lost 28-24 to Stade Francais, and currently sit at third on the Top 14 log.
Boudjellal is clearly not pleased with his side’s form at present, and has publicly lamented the club’s lengthy list of injuries as well as the absence of international stars like Habana, Botha, and Pumas flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
Matt Giteau has long been lost to the Wallabies for next year’s World Cup, but the bidding in French rugby for his services speaks volumes about his value as a player.
Giteau, an established star in the Top 14 champion Toulon club in the south of France, has reportedly become the target of the Paris-based Racing Metro club with a €1 million ($1.4 million) a year offer reportedly on the table.
The short-term future of James O’Connor and his return to Australia is assured, but doubts remain about his long-term plans after the World Cup in Britain next year.
Queensland are expecting O’Connor, who has 44 Test caps with the Wallabies, to remain in Brisbane after announcing last Friday that the back had signed a two-year deal with them – starting next season.
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton faces a race against time to be fit for the autumn internationals after breaking his jaw while playing for Racing Metro.
The 29-year-old British and Irish Lions star was injured in a heavy clash with Craig Burden in Sunday’s French top-flight contest against Toulon.
South African hooker Burden was sin-binned for the challenge.
Former Springbok prop CJ van der Linde may end off his career by joining the legion of South Africans at Heineken Cup champions Toulon.
While it was widely reported that Van der Linde had joined up with the EP Kings for the upcoming Absa Currie Cup season, French newspaper Midi Olympique now reports that the journeyman has signed a two-year contract with Toulon to play in the European season.
Experienced former All Black tighthead prop, Carl Hayman, has been named as the new captain of European champions Toulon.
The 34-year-old front row forward takes over from World Cup-winning England flyhalf legend Jonny Wilkinson who retired at the end of last season.
Juan Smith has moved closer to a possible recall for the Springboks after his French club Toulon released him along side Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha for the Rugby Championship.
This comes as SARU announced that a 30-man Springbok squad for the forthcoming Rugby Championship will only be announced on Saturday 2 August.
This is due to the Sharks still being involved in Super Rugby and lingering injury concerns over certain players.
In April 2012, Smith announced that he would be taking an indefinite break from rugby due to the ongoing battle with his Achilles injury.
Toulon have released South Africa winger Bryan Habana to play for the Blitzbokke at the Commonwealth Games.
Habana had previously been named in the original squad to compete in Scotland before the club decided to prevent him from participating.
However, Toulon have now announced that the 97-times capped flyer has been released to compete in the tournament before he links up with the Springboks to play in The Rugby Championship.
Schalk Brits is the other big name who won’t be featuring in the competition, after his release was denied by Saracens.
Juan Smith is set to complete an extraordinary return to Test rugby after being named in South Africa’s squad for a training camp in August, according to Toulon.
Toulon have announced that Smith, along with Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana, have been selected to attend a South African training camp in August.
Smith, who won the Heineken Cup and Top 14 titles with Toulon last season, has been rejuvenated in France after taking an indefinite break from the sport back in 2012 due to a persistent battle with an Achilles injury.
Springbok and Toulon lock Bakkies Botha has spoken about life in France, the final 18 months of his career and what he has planned after rugby.
After his successful run with the Springboks in June against the World XV and Wales, the My Players website caught up with the 35-year-old during his off time in the South African bush.
Toulon’s South African contingent capped an unbelievably successful seven days by lifting the Bouclier de Brennus shield in Paris, after defeating Castres 18-10 in the Top 14 Final to go with their Heineken Cup title.
Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson was given the perfect send-off by Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith, Craig Burden and Bryan Habana, who all started the final, with Danie Rossouw and Michael Claassens appearing off the bench.
The match was Rossouw’s last before retirement and brings down the curtain on a truly glorious career in which he was won every trophy available to him, from league titles in Japan, France and Super Rugby to two Heineken Cups and of course the Rugby World Cup and old Tri-Nations.
Jonny Wilkinson ended his career by helping Toulon to the French title with victory over Castres in Paris.
The former England fly-half, 35, kicked all but three of his side’s points in an 18-10 victory in the Top 14 final.
His display included four penalty kicks and a drop goal reminiscent of his winning kick against Australia to win England the World Cup in 2003.
Today is almost Groundhog Day in France as Toulon once again take on Castres in the Top 14 final, but this year there is one crucial difference. Jonny Wilkinson, as the rugby world and his wife is well aware, will hang up his boots on Saturday evening having played the final 80 minutes in his glittering career. Worryingly for Castres, it would be hard to imagine that Wilkinson’s Toulon team-mates will allow him to sign off with an anti-climax.
It’s not just Wilkinson that Toulon will be aiming to win for – the whole team have a score to settle with their opponents. Castres upset the applecart last season by defeating Toulon 19-14 in the final to claim their first league title in 20 years. Having become the first French club to secure back-to-back Heineken Cups last weekend, Toulon are now aiming to secure a league and cup double that will send their already devoted fans into absolute pandemonium.
Jonny Wilkinson said playing alongside ‘inspirational’ former Australian centre Matt Giteau had convinced him now was the right time to retire.
Giteau will find himself back on South African soil in June when he faces the Springboks as part of Nick Mallett’s World XV.
Wilkinson and Giteau – ‘the ultimate professional’ in the eyes of the England great – were both members of the star-studded Toulon side that retained the European Cup with a 23-6 win over Saracens in the European Cup Final.
Comic magnate Mourad Boudjellal’s Toulon retained the Heineken Cup trophy with a comprehensive victory, by seventeen points, over English club Saracens at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff yesterday. The final score was Saracens 6/23 Toulon.
This victory proved that in the modern era of sports it is most often the team who has the biggest pot of gold available to it who will win the trophy as on the same day Toulon’s football equivalent Real Madrid lifted the Champions League trophy just hours later in Lisbon. The final score of 4/1 to Real Madrid may make their victory seem as comprehensive as Toulon’s.
The build-up to one of Europe’s greatest sporting weekends is almost complete as the clock ticks towards the Cardiff 2014 finals kick-off.
With a galaxy of international stars ready to take the stage at the atmospheric Millennium Stadium for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup decider between RC Toulon and Saracens, and at Cardiff Arms Park for this evening’s all-English Amlin Challenge Cup confrontation featuring Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints, fans from all over Europe are flocking into the Welsh capital to savour a unique celebration of club rugby.
Both matches – which will feature players from as many as 15 nations including luminaries of the global game such as Jonny Wilkinson, George North, Matt Giteau, Schalk Brits and Bryan Habana – will be broadcast in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson says it would be “amazing” to one day coach his country after announcing he will retire from playing this month.
The 34-year-old will play in the Heineken Cup and Top 14 finals for Toulon, at which point he will join the French club’s coaching staff.
Wilkinson played 91 times for England, famously kicking a winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final.