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Mourad Boudjellal warns internationals about missing Toulon games

‘The clubs, who pay the wages, should have their stars for the most important dates of the season.’
Jul 24th 2015, 7:04 PM 8,396 16

THE UPCOMING SEASON promises to be hugely demanding for professional rugby clubs around the globe as the World Cup stretches the calendar close to breaking point, nowhere more obviously than in France.

Leigh Halfpenny scores a penalty during extra time Wales tour New Zealand next summer, meaning Leigh Halfpenny could miss Toulon games. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has come up with a typically outspoken response to the problem, telling French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique that he expects his players to value club over country.

The Guinness Pro12 and Aviva Premiership will both be concluded by the end of next May but the Top 14′s play-offs are only scheduled to start on 10 June, 2016, with the final set for 24 June in Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

That means the Top 14 play-offs – which involve a barrages phase (essentially two quarter-finals), the semi-finals and the decider – will all take place during an international Test window, bringing about the possibility that clubs such as Toulon will be missing some star names for those clashes.

However, Boudjellal has other ideas.

I hope that our international players will choose to stay in France,” Boudjellal told Midi Olympique. “It seems obvious to me that the clubs, who pay the wages, should have their stars for the most important dates of the season.

“At that point, it’s not four (league) points that you can catch up on and I recall that those Test matches, on the contrary, are friendlies. I hope the unions are understanding. But generally, we deal with people of real egotism.”

Boudjellal has previously spoken about his issues with World Rugby’s Regulation 9, which essentially ensures that Test rugby is the priority during designated international windows and that clubs must therefore release players at those times.

Mourad Boudjellal Boudjellal is deeply passionate about RCT. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Indeed, the Toulon president – who was in the media earlier this week threatening to sue the ARU – has written to World Rugby seeking compensation for losing his players to international duties during the club season.

With the likes of France, South Africa, Australia, Wales and Italy all playing Test games next June, Toulon and several other leading Top 14 sides look set to lose a handful of their stars for the knock-out stages.

Those players who won’t be here for the end of the season, we would ask them to look for another club,” warned Boudjellal of that possibility.

“For me, vis-á-vis the labour laws, it would be a serious mistake. I hope they won’t ask to be paid if that is the case.”

There will of course be no concern over Paul O’Connell missing the end of the season, as he retires from international rugby after the World Cup, but one wonders what the Ireland captain makes of Boudjellal’s high-profile words this week.

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Murray Kinsella

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