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Too many foreign players in the Top 14? 'Bullsh*t' says Boudjellal

The Toulon president feels the French national team’s problems are due to the lack of a game plan.

Boudjellal celebrates with the Toulon players after the 2014 Heineken Cup success.
Boudjellal celebrates with the Toulon players after the 2014 Heineken Cup success.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

TOULON PRESIDENT MOURAD Boudjellal has rejected arguments that the Top 14 features too many foreign players as “bullshit”.

Following the French national team’s series whitewash in Australia, supporters and media in l’Hexagone are once again questioning the direction their rugby is heading in. The last decade has seen a major influx of non-French players into the domestic leagues, and many commentators have pointed to this as a problem for les Bleus.

Head coach Philippe Saint-André has recently repeated his fears that the foreign influence in the Top 14 is stunting his chance of leading a successful charge on the international front.

The front page of this morning’s Midi Olympique, the French rugby newspaper, reads: ‘Too much, it’s too much: The French XV is suffering from the abundance of foreign players.’

A two-page dossier goes on to explore the issue, with particular focus on the fact that there is a shortage of top-class French tighthead props. A compilation of statistics outlines the fact that there are currently 220 foreign players employed by Top 14 clubs.

Saint-André’s time in charge of France has been extremely inconsistent, with 11 victories, two draws and 16 defeats in his 29 Test matches so far. There has been little noticeable progress of tactics, nor has there been any real sense of planned squad development.

Midol Source: Midi Olympique

It is on those negatives that Boudjellal has focused in replying to suggestions that clubs like Toulon, with their 48.4 percentage of France-qualified players, are damaging the ability of les Bleus to compete on the international stage.

“It’s bullshit! Why are the French players good when they play against the best foreigners in the Top 14? And why do we get the impression that they play three levels below that when they are with the French team?

“When Toulon won the European Cup, I didn’t think Chiocci, Bruni, Suta, Tillous-Borde or Bastareaud [all French players] were unworthy of Wilkinson, Giteau or Botha,” continued Boudjellal in conversation with L’Équipe.

When the players in the French team have no game plan, it’s not because there are too many foreigners in the Top 14. There are no more foreigners than there were three years ago. But what has changed in three years? The coaches!

“When you play three games and lose [as in Australia], that is not the fault of foreigners. The [French] staff would be better looking introspectively rather than blaming the Top 14. It’s unbearable to hear adults blame others.

“We must dare to ask the right questions. If they think the losses are not their responsibility, then they have become irresponsible.”

What do you think? Is Saint-André to blame or is he suffering from the level of foreign involvement in the Top 14?

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Murray Kinsella

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