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Toulon

Mourad Boudjellal

Mourad Boudjellal

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.

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Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

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.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana

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.

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Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny

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.”

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Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal

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.

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Matt Giteau

Wanted man… Matt Giteau playing for Toulon.

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.

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James O'Connor

Runaway success: James O’Connor scores a try for Toulon on the weekend.

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.

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Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton

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.

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CJ van der Linde

CJ van der Linde

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.

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Juan Smith

Juan Smith

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.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana – On standby for Blitzbokke duty

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.

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Juan Smith

Springbok flanker Juan Smith may be set to return to the Green and Gold

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.

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Bakkies Botha

Springbok hard man, Bakkies Botha, showing his romantic side

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.

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Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith & Danie Rossouw at Toulon

Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith & Danie Rossouw at Toulon

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.

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Jonny Wilkinson for Toulon in the 2014 Top 14 Final against Castres, his last game before retirement.

Jonny Wilkinson for Toulon in the 2014 Top 14 Final against Castres, his last game before retirement.

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.

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top14logoToday 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.

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Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson & Matt Giteau celebrates

Toulon’s Jonny Wilkinson & Matt Giteau celebrates

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.

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Toulon

Toulon celebrates the 2014 Heineken Cup win against Saracens

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.

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HCACTrophiesThe 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.

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Jonny WilkinsonFormer 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.

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Jonny WilkinsonEngland’s Rugby World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson announced on Monday that he will retire at the end of the season after Toulon’s Heineken Cup and French Top 14 finals.

“I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby,” the 34-year-old said in a statement on his club’s website.

“I have an enormous number of people to thank for their support from all around the world but especially here in France and in England,” Wilkinson said.

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Millennium Stadium with the roof closed

Millennium Stadium with the roof closed

Heineken CupHeineken Cup organisers have announced that the roof of the Millennium Stadium will be closed for next Saturday’s Heineken Cup final between holders, RC Toulon, and Saracens.

The decision is in keeping with previous European club rugby deciders at the famous Cardiff venue. While the atmosphere surrounding a Heineken Cup final is inevitably a special one, the sheer sense of occasion generated when the Millennium Stadium roof is shut adds an extra dimension for players and supporters alike.

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Rory KockottToulonCastresDefending champions Castres will play European champions Toulon in a repeat of the 2013 French championship Final, after they edged Montpellier 22-19 after extra-time in an engrossing encounter in Lille on Saturday.

For Castres it was the third successive time they had beaten Fabien Galthie’s Montpellier in the play-offs, after their opponents had got the better of them on their way to the Final in 2011.

While Castres’ South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott scored 14 of their points, it was 35-year-old Fijian centre Seremaia Bai who dropped a rare goal on the stroke of half-time of extra-time that made the difference in the end.

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Heineken CupToulonReigning champions Toulon will have a shot at becoming only the third team in Heineken Cup history to defend their title after they overcame Munster 24-16 in the second semi-final at Stade Velodrome, Marseille.

The only try of the game may have come in the second half from Munster wing Simon Zebo, but Toulon were never behind in a game which saw Jonny Wilkinson end with 21 points and Delon Armitage smash over a 55 metre penalty.

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Heineken CupThe European Cup draws towards the Final with two french giants battling against the cream of the Irish and English leagues in the semifinals.

Reigning European Cup champions, Toulon, are aiming for a fourth European final in five seasons.

And although they are on the opposite side of the semifinal draw from French compatriots Clermont, successes for both of these teams could see a repeat of last years Final.

Last year’s Final saw Toulon just pip Clermont by a solitary point.

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Jonny WilkinsonCraig BurdenToulonHolders Toulon look set to be able to call on influential flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson and hooker Craig Burden for the European Cup semifinal against Munster.

The pair, out injured for the past two weeks, have reported fit and both turned out for training on Monday.

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Bakkies BothaSpringbok and Toulon lock Bakkies Botha has tweeted an X-ray showing nine steel pins inserted into a plate in his broken arm.

The Springbok and Toulon lock successfully underwent an operation to have a plate inserted in his arm after he broke it in Toulon’s 23-10 Top 14 defeat against Brive.

Botha is expected be out for two-and-a-half months, and he has indicated that his rehabilitation is on track.

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Bryan HabanaSouth African star Bryan Habana scored a try on his return to action after a three-month absence because of a hamstring injury as Toulon beat Bordeaux-Begles 22-20 in a thrilling Top 14 encounter on Saturday.

The 30-year-old – a World Cup winner in 2007 – touched down in the 66th minute as Toulon came from 20-9 down to prevail, largely thanks to 14 points from Frederic Michalak.

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Heineken CupThe tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.

There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.

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Jonny WilkinsonEnglish rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson celebrated his 100th match in the Top 14 in suitable fashion on Sunday as he kicked all of European champion Toulon’s points as they secured a 15-9 win at relegation-threatened Bayonne.

The 34-year-old landed four penalties and one drop goal to give Toulon only their second away win in eight away matches this campaign and consolidated their place in the top six places for the post-season playoffs – they are five points ahead of seventh placed Toulouse.

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