Toulon

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rorylamont

Rory Lamont: On-field treatment following Fibula fracture against France in 2012

The relationship between Rory Lamont and rugby has always been uneasy. When it was good, it was really good: 29 Scotland caps, two World Cups, and stints in Europe’s top leagues with Toulon, Sale and Glasgow.

When it was bad, it was really bad: whispering campaigns about his attitude, 16 operations, “double figure” concussions. By the time the game ran out of uses for him, the feeling was entirely mutual.

Three years ago this week, Lamont announced his retirement. The last of his many injuries, a lower leg fracture from the previous year, hadn’t properly healed and the end came as a relief.

“I was thinking, ‘finally it’s over’. I felt like an animal being put out of its misery. I’d had a miserable year, people questioning my integrity, and I couldn’t wait to crack on with my life and all the amazing things I was going to do.”

Never did he picture becoming a recluse, battling severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Nowhere in the retirement brochure did it say he’d lose 25kg in four months and be unable to stomach solids for a further five. The bit about being so low he hoped he’d be run over by a bus? Not what he’d signed up for either.

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Toulon RFCCell C SharksToulon (0) 21 / 29 (17) Sharks (Final Score)

Toulon and the Cell C Sharks did battle in a Super Rugby 2016 warm-up match at

Stade Mayol, Toulon, France at 21:45 SA Time (20:45 French Time, 19:45 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks received a timely boost with confirmation that seasoned Springbok loose forward Keegan Daniel is returning to Durban.

Daniel, who has spent 2 seasons with Kubota in Japan, will be playing for the Sharks in the 2016 Super Rugby season.

With 199 caps for the Sharks, 59 of those as captain, he also led the team to Currie Cup glory in 2013.

Daniel, 30, played the last of his 5 Tests for the Springboks against Argentina at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, in August 2012.

Always a fierce competitor, he will bring strong leadership and experience to the team environment – which will greatly benefit the youngsters in the Sharks squad.

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European Rugby Champions CupSaracens, Northampton, Exeter, Wasps and Leicester have joined 3 French teams in the European Rugby Champions Cup last 8.

Premiership title holders Sarries will host Saints, and Wasps will welcome Exeter to the Ricoh Arena.

Leicester face Stade Francais at home, having already played them twice in the pool stages, and Racing 92 will play reigning European champions Toulon.

It is the 1st time there is no Pro12 representation in the last 8 of the competition.

Sarries, Leicester and Racing 92 guaranteed themselves a home tie in the quarterfinals last weekend, while Wasps joined them after winning Pool 5 on Saturday, with 3-time defending champions and Toulon joining them as one of the best runners-up.

Stade Francais were confirmed as 1 of the 3 best runners-up after they beat the Tigers with a bonus point on Sunday, but the other 2 places went down to the wire.

Northampton’s win over Scarlets on Saturday was enough to see them through as runners-up in Pool 3, and Exeter came through as winners of Pool 2 on points difference after beating Ospreys.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks’ 5 missing international players — away in Japan completing their club duties — are expected back in Durban before the end of the month.

New vice-captain Marcell Coetzee, JP Pietersen, Namibian backrower Renaldo Bothma and new signings Willie le Roux and Jacques Potgieter will join the Sharks squad a week before they leave on their pre-season tour of France early in February.

A member of the Sharks management yesterday said that the squad to travel to France would be announced next week and a decision on whether the Japan-based players would be included for the 2 friendlies has still to be made.

The Sharks will play 2-time European champs Toulon on Friday 5 February, before taking on Toulouse 6 days later.

New Cell C Sharks captain Pat Lambie said that it was likely that all the tour members would be given an airing during the 2 games but added that taking on the 2 Top 14 French clubs would be a major challenge.

Head coach Gary Gold said he wanted tough opposition for his young charges ahead of a fresh season.

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Cian Healy

Cian Healy

Leinster prop Cian Healy has been banned for 2 weeks for dangerous play during last weekend’s European Champions Cup game against Toulon.

The 28-year-old Ireland international was charged with striking Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado with his knee during the 24-9 defeat in France.

The striking charge was found to be not proven but the incident was deemed to be foul play.

Healy misses the return fixture against Toulon and a Pro12 match with Munster.

Although there were no aggravating factors, judicial officer Roger Morris said the ban could not be reduced because Healy does not have a clean disciplinary record.

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EP KingsUnpaid player wages continue to mar the cash-strapped Eastern Province Rugby Union.

The union is facing a deadline from the South African Rugby Players Association (SARPA) to make player payments by Tuesday.

After problems over payments arose again at the end of October, SARPA issued a written 10-day notice for the Kings to pay outstanding salaries or face action against them.

The cash-strapped union was unable to pay players for several months earlier in the season after a lucrative sponsorship deal failed to materialise.

The union’s president Cheeky Watson reportedly travelled abroad, where he was believed to be looking into delays over a long-touted new sponsorship.

The men from Port Elizabeth had a torrid Currie Cup season, winning only 2 matches to finish 2nd from bottom on the overall Log.

They will also compete as the 6th South African franchise in an expanded Super Rugby season from next season.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

The Cell C Sharks will travel to France in February 2016, on a pre-season tour ahead of the start of their Super Rugby 2016 campaign.

There are 2 games lined-up for the tour, with a visit to Stade Mayol 1st up to take on 2-time European champs Toulon on Friday 5 February before they face Toulouse on Thursday 11 February.

The Sharks believe that these matches against 2 of the best European clubs in recent times, marks an ideal opportunity to fine tune their preparation for Super Rugby.

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Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Australian flyhalf Quade Cooper reported for duty at European champions Toulon on Tuesday, having negotiated a special contract clause so he can play in the Olympics next year.

The 27-year-old flyhalf apologised to Toulon fans for the extended negotiations that even last week appeared compromised because of doubts about his international future.

“It has been a drawn-out process and I apologise for that,” Cooper told a press conference alongside Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.

Australia’s selection rules only allow foreign-based players to be chosen if they have 60 caps. Cooper has 58 but made only 1 Rugby World Cup appearance because of the hot form of Bernard Foley.

Cooper said the 1st version of his Toulon contract did not mention being freed for national games, but it was renegotiated. Boudjellal said, and “if he is called he will be immediately freed.”

Cooper said the talks with Boudjellal had focused on allowing him to go to the Olympics in Rio next August when Sevens rugby will be played for the 1st time.

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Salesi Ma'afu

Salesi Ma’afu

Former Australian international prop Salesi Ma’afu could face jail after French prosecutors on Tuesday requested an 8-month prison sentence and a € 1 500.00 fine for an alleged assault.

The 32-year-old Toulon player, capped 14 times, is believed to have been involved in a heated argument over a parking place on 16 August and to have hit someone who attempted to intervene.

Ma’afu has not sparkled in pre-season friendlies since he joined the 3-time European champions from English side Northampton, and only came on for the last half hour of the opening day defeat to Racing-Metro.

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Mourad Boudjellal

Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has denied any wrongdoing on the part of the club or players with regard to allegations surrounding a criminal investigation.

Reports in French media have stated that pharmacists illegally distributed products to the French Top 14 club’s players.

Prosecutors in Marseille confirmed on Tuesday that they have launched an investigation into the practices of a number of pharmacies in Toulon following a notification from AFDL, France’s anti-doping authority.

However, Boudjellal has held a press conference to rubbish the reports.

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Salesi Ma'afu

Salesi Ma’afu

Australian international prop Salesi Ma’afu is in custody over an alleged assault, a police source said on Monday.

The 32-year-old Toulon player, capped 14 times by the Wallabies, is believed to have been involved in a heated argument over a parking place on 16 August and is reported to have hit someone who attempted to intervene.

Ma’afu has not sparkled in pre-season friendlies since he joined the 3-time European champions from English side Northampton, and only came on for the last half hour of the opening day 22 / 27 defeat to Racing-Metro on Friday.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

Springbok utility back Frans Steyn is set to join Montpellier in the French Top 14 and reunite with his World Cup winning coach Jake White.

Steyn is one of many recruits from South Africa and Australia in a completely revamped Montpellier outfit under the guidance of coach White.

White, who had coaching roles at the Sharks and Brumbies as well as the South African national side, has confirmed 20 new signings for Montpellier – with a number of them from places where he used to ply his trade.

The 28-year-old Steyn is no foreigner to France having had a spell at Racing Metro from 2009 – 2012.

His versatility at flyhalf, centre and fullback should be particularly useful to Montpellier, given the many departures announced this off-season for the French club.

The French scene is notorious for big-money signings a look is taken into the major comings and goings in the Top 14 for the season ahead.

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HighlandersToulon RFCEuropean champions Toulon of France and Super Rugby winners the Highlanders of New Zealand are hoping to face-off in Hong Kong on 6 February.

The 1-off fixture brings together triple European champions Toulon with the Highlanders, who landed their 1st Super Rugby title this month.

“Toulon and the Highlanders have sent off a request for agreement from their respective federations,” Philippe Spanghero, a spokesman for the organisers, told AFP.

“When that’s obtained we’ll put together a proposal to World Rugby to get all the required authorisation,” he added.

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Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

The latest instalment in the Quade Cooper transfer saga has been an exchange of words between the Toulon boss and the Australian coach.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal launched a relatively tasteless tirade against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and its prized asset Quade Cooper, whom he threatened would end up as “the 2nd most indebted State after Greece”.

The eccentric Frenchman said that the 150 000 Euros that has been mooted as Cooper’s buyout of his contract was in fact for the promise of a contract – Boudjellal claims that Cooper has actually put pen to paper, which would make that void and has allegedly threatened legal action if Cooper does not show up for his medical soon.

Boudjellal told Midi Olympique: “The moron of the Australian federation who does not understand the case needs to know that the promise of employment is no longer the question.”

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Reports suggest that Wallaby star Quade Cooper has pulled out of a big-money move to France.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is set to confirm the Wallabies playmaker has signed a 4-year deal to remain in the country, opting out of his lucrative contract with glamour French club Toulon, Fairfax Media reported.

The media outlet said an announcement was expected to be made on Monday, confirming Cooper’s re-signing with the ARU, after his Reds team severed ties with him last month amid acrimonious contractual negotiations.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika gave nothing away to reporters on Sunday following his team’s last-gasp 24 / 20 win over South Africa in The Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane the previous night.

But Cheika has reportedly been a significant figure in the ARU’s talks with Cooper and his management and has repeatedly underlined the importance of keeping the skilful flyhalf in Australia.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Queensland Rugby Union has advised Quade Cooper that they are withdrawing their contract offer and will not attempt to retain him for the 2016 season and beyond.

It is understood that when Cooper travelled overseas in April he signed a pre-commitment to join French side Toulon at the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. However, he had previously – and then continued to – demonstrate a genuineness on wanting to remain with the Reds and the Wallabies.

Since that time, his management has been in negotiation with QRU and Australian Rugby Union (ARU). However, due to events over the last few weeks, QRU CEO Jim Carmichael said the organisation was no longer willing to participate in what has been an ongoing process with Cooper’s management.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen met with Director of Rugby Gert Smal on Monday morning, to sort out the events that transpired in France last week.
Vermeulen visited French Top 14 club Toulon late last week and was unveiled to the local media as their new signing – a move which certainly caught Western Province Rugby by surprise.

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Duane Vermeulen

DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen has not improved significantly enough to feature in the 1st Round of Super Rugby playoffs.

The Stormers host the Brumbies at DHL Newlands on Saturday and the burly Springbok will not be considered.

Should the Stormers beat the Brumbies at Newlands, they would travel to Sydney to face the Waratahs in the semifinals.

Vermeulen, who has missed the Stormers’ last 2 games with a bulging neck disc that at one stage threatened his World Cup prospects, is making “good progress” on the road to recovery.

However, coach Allister Coetzee said that the improvement is “not enough” for this week.

“Hopefully, going forward, there is still an opportunity for him,” Coetzee told a media scrum at the team’s training base.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Even with the Top 14 Final looming, the French media rumour mill has gone into overdrive about Southern Hemisphere players heading north for the next season.

Waratahs superstar Israel Folau is the latest Wallaby linked to a move to cash-flush French club Toulon.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, who has never been scared to wield his substantial cheque book to lure big names to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, has already made substantial acquisitions for the 2015 / 2016 season.

According to the French sporting newspaper Midi Olympique Boudjellal and his people are already speaking to Folau.

If the 2-time European champions convince the Wallaby fullback to head to France after the World Cup, in England in September and October, he will join a long list of high-profile recruits.

Already said to be heading to Toulon for the new season are Ma’a Nonu (from the Hurricanes), Jonathan Pélissié (from Montpellier), France Thibault (from Oyonnax), Salesi Ma’afu (from Northampton Saints), Samu Manoa (from Northampton Saints), Mohamed Boughanmi (from Béziers), Julien Caminati (from France Grenoble), Quade Cooper (or so they claim, from the Reds), James O’Connor (another unconfirmed arrival – from the Reds), Charles Ollivon (from Bayonne), Anthony Etrillard (from Bayonne) and Paul O’Connell (from Munster).

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Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon boss, Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal took aim at the Stade Bordeaux spectators for showing “disrespect” to 1 of the game’s greatest players.

Stade  Français stunned triple European champions Toulon 33 / 16 last Friday to reach the French Top 14 Final.

Led by the irrepressible Italian back row forward Sergio Parisse, Stade scored tries through flanks Rapahel Lakafia and Antoine Bourban, before a freak late score from wing Julien Arias gave a flattering skew to the final score – as they reached their 1st Final since defeating Clermont 23 / 18 in 2007.

It was a sad end for a number of veteran stalwarts, whose club careers ended with this defeat – including South Africa’s Bakkies Botha, along with Ali Williams and Carl Hayman of New Zealand.

Outgoing Toulon coach Bernard Laporte took aim at the players, for a lack of commitment, but the club President, Boudjellal, turned anger on the spectators.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen’s reported move to France appears all the more likely after the Springbok and Stormers No 8 rejected a contract offer from the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

Vermeulen would have been the highest earning Springbok had he accepted SARU’s offer.

His decision to reject the offer from SARU adds fire to reports earlier this year that linked him with a move to French club Toulon.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Big-spending French giants Toulon are finding the going tough in luring Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to France after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Reports late last year indicated that Etzebeth could join Toulon as a replacement for compatriot Bakkies Botha, who is set to leave the reigning European champions.

The problem though for Toulon is that Etzebeth is still contracted to Western Province until the end of the 2016 season – and the union is reluctant to let him go.

Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal has confirmed their interest in Etzebeth, but admitted that they are finding the going tough to attain Etzebeth’s services, with Western Province believed to be upset over the matter.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

With Quade Cooper almost certain to honour his agreement with Toulon, Reds coach Richard Graham has revealed the Australian team may seek a new flyhalf from abroad.

Toulon, showing a picture of the Wallaby flyhalf wearing a Toulon jersey and shaking the hand of club president Mourad Boudjellal, only for the Australian and Queensland Rugby Unions to insist they were still in negotiations with the player and nothing was set in stone.

But according to weekend reports, Cooper will indeed be joining the French club after this year’s World Cup, with the deal to be formalised in public within the next fortnight.

On Monday, Graham was sticking to the official line that Cooper’s future in Brisbane was still uncertain but admitted that the club were exploring options for his replacement, including the possibility of bringing in a foreigner.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

The Reds believe the Australian Rugby Union’s revised contracting system could convince star playmaker Quade Cooper to remain in Brisbane.

Cooper’s future remains a hot topic of conversation, following the announcement by Toulon than the 53-Test veteran had signed a 2-year contract with the French club.

Cooper, the Reds and the ARU vehemently denied his departure is a done deal – accusing the Top 14 club of jumping the gun.

It is now reported that Cooper has been offered a 4-year flexible contract by the ARU, which will allow him to play in Japan during the off-season and return for Super Rugby to remain eligible for the Wallabies.

Reds coach Richard Graham, addressing a media scrum in Brisbane on Monday, said they remain optimistic that Cooper will not take up the Toulon offer.

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Toulon celebrate winning the 2015 European Rugby Champions Cup

Toulon celebrate winning the 2015 European Rugby Champions Cup

 

Australian wing Drew Mitchell’s brilliant late try ensured Toulon became the 1st club to win 3 successive Premier European titles as they beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham.

Clermont were 11 / 3 up midway through the 1st half, yet turned round at the break with Toulon leading 16 / 11 – after Leigh Halfpenny’s remorseless boot and a converted try by Mathieu Bastareaud saw the champions into the lead.

But Nick Abendanon’s converted try for Clermont just after the hour cut Toulon’s lead to a point only, only for Drew Mitchell to have the last word.

Toulon and Wales fullback Halfpenny punished Clermont’s indiscipline with 4 penalties and also kicked a conversion in a 14-point haul.

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Matt Giteau

Matt Giteau

Matt Giteau said he would love to return to Twickenham with the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup after guiding Toulon to a 3rd straight European title.

Giteau was at flyhalf in an all-star international backline featuring Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny and South Africa’s Bryan Habana as Toulon beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in the European Rugby Chamions Cup Final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Having made his Test debut as a 20-year-old at Twickenham back in 2002, Giteau effectively called time on his 92-cap Australia career when he signed for Toulon after failing to be included in the Wallabies’ squad for the 2011 World Cup.

But he was given a route back into the international arena when the Australia Rugby Union announced last month it was relaxing its hardline stance barring overseas-based players from representing the Wallabies.

“I signed over here knowing I wouldn’t play Test rugby again,” said Giteau after Saturday’s match. “Now the rules have changed, it’s a possibility. I had no idea it was coming, but I’m happy it has.

“It’s very exciting for Australian rugby that they’ve changed that (the eligibility rules). For me in particular, it doesn’t change a great deal until I’m contacted.”

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Bakkies Botha

Bakkies Botha

He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.

With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.

But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.

Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.

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European Rugby Champions Cup Final - Logo

Toulon’s Australian star back Matt Giteau admits rivals Clermont are the favourites for the all-French European Champions Cup Final on Saturday, but he adds the 2-time defending champions won’t give up their crown easily.

The 32-year-old said Clermont deserved to be favourites because they were the best side this season – both in Europe and domestically – in what is a rematch of the 2013 Final, which Toulon won.

“Clermont are a wonderful team,” said Giteau, whose form looks set to earn him a recall to the Australian national side after the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its rules on players playing abroad.

“For me, they are even the best team this year,” continued Giteau, who if he stays fit is likely to reach the 100 cap mark later in the year as he was just 8 short when he was surprisingly dropped for the 2011 World Cup and subsequently moved to Toulon.

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European Rugby Champions CupThe battle for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday won’t just be a European affair, but a truly global occasion.

Between them the 2 finalists, RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne, boast an amazing 52 international players from 13 different countries.

Between them the 2 32-man squads have 1,838 Test caps.

Leading the way are the back-to-back champions, RC Toulon, with a massive 1,189, including 100-plus cappers in Bryan Habana and Martin Castrogiovanni.

Clermont, who lost to their Top 14 rivals in the 2013 Final in Dublin, have 649.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Toulon have quashed rumours that they have signed Irish captain Paul O’Connell, but it is believed that the Reds & Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has made the move.

It was reported that the French giants were chasing another Galácticos signing for the second row, with current legends Bakkies Botha and Ali WIlliams set to retire at the end of the season.

O’Connell’s contract with the IRFU expires in June of 2016, but it was speculated that Toulon were eager for him to be released from his contract to join them after the World Cup.

Since then, a strong statement has been released insisting ‘any alleged contacts between the player and the french club are pure speculation’.
Meanwhile, French paper L’Equipe has said that Toulon have captured the signature of the mercurial Cooper on a 2-year deal.

Cooper, if reports are to be believed, would join a burgeoning Australian contingent at Toulon with Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell already there.

Toulon have already brought in All Black Ma’a Nonu ahead of next season with Samu Manoa, Salesi Ma’afu and Napolioni Nalaga also joining the reigning European champions.

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European Rugby Champions Cup2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.

Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.

Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.

Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.

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European Rugby Champions CupThe European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.

On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

 

Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:

Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?

The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.

Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.

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European Rugby Champions CupA bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.

After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.

Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.

They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.

Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.

Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.

Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.

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European Rugby Champions CupWith 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.

In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.

The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.

Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.

English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.

For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.

The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.

The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.

Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.

The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.

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