French rugby giant Toulon has become the Real Madrid of the rugby world – turning a once-second-division side into a star-studded spectacle, packed full of international stars including the likes of Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha, Mathieu Bastareau, Drew Mitchell, Leigh Halfpenny, and Juan Smith, to name a few. But the dual-championship winners have earmarked some more world-class players to join their cause.
The Wallabies and Queensland Reds may have to start planning for life after Quade Cooper, with the flyhalf set to sign a two-year deal with Toulon.
Cooper had been in talks with the Top 14 glamour club and reportedly liked what he saw during a visit to France this past week. French paper L’Equipe reported that the deal was done, however Fairfax Media understands that the contract has not been finalised yet but is likely to happen soon.
The fabled member of the 2011 Super Rugby championship side will obviously attract a large crowd at the club and could provide the arena for him to exercise his more flamboyant style of play.
Ma’a Nonu’s post World Cup departure to France appears to have been confirmed, but who he will join is still in question – although, Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has made it very clear that he wants the All Blacks midfielder.
With the likes of Bastareaud already in the centre, the pairing of Nonu with the big French No. 13 could prove a potent combination. Ma’a Nonu’s skill-set is unrivaled, and he would be a major asset for any club.
Another player the outspoken Boudjellal has targetted is Springbok no. 8 Duane Vermeulen.
According to reports earlier this year, the Stormers hardman has been offered a record-setting deal that would see the loose-forward joining the Top 14, and his fetching and ball-carrying skills would be greatly welcomed.
Vermeulen enjoyed a wonderful 2014 season with the Springboks; heroic efforts in two Rugby Championship classics with the All Blacks leading to a nomination for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award.