Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Argentina Players in France - Toulon


Located on France´s Mediterranean coast is one of France´s biggest spending sides, RC Toulonnais, more commonly known simply by the cities name, Toulon. The club has passed through significant changes in recent years to not only win back promotion to the Top 14 but also to be highly competitive. The reason for Toulon´s rise to being a genuine title contender comes down to one thing - the clubs budget. Toulon has the fifth highest budget of all teams in the Top 14. The club runs on €19,7 milion per year which has it above sides who have been in the Top 14 forever including Bayonne, Biarritz, Castres and Perpignan. It is also higher than that of Montpellier who contested the 2010-2011 Top 14 final, the first in the history of the club. Toulon´s large expenditure has resulted in the team having a world class playing roster but it still maintains a lower budget than that of Toulouse, Clermont, Racing Métro and Stade Français.

Toulon is a threre time Champion of France, having won the title in 1931, 1987 and 1992 while the game was still amateur. The club have however, twice, been relegated to the Pro d2 since the advent of professionalism. Most recently, Toulon were relegated in 2006 after finishing in last place in its first year back in the French top flight. The club then made the necessary adjustments and took the bull by the horns and has since been riding the wave of professionalism by contracting worldclass players and coaches. It won promotion back to the Top 14 after winning the Pro d2 in 2007-2008 but had a tough first season in the Top 14 as the club lacked sufficient platers of quality across the park and struggled for direction with former All Black, Tana Umaga in charge of the team. The club then acquired the services of notable players and Phillipe Saint André as coach. The result was a vastly improved team in the 2009–10 season as Toulon finished second on the ladder at the end of the regular season before being defeated by Clermont in extra time in a lcassic Semi-Final match in St. Ettiene. The club also hosted the European Challenge Cup Semi Final at Marseilles but lost to Welsh side the Cardiff Blues.

Toulon´s home matches are played at the Stade Mayol which has a capacity of slighly over 14,000 and has been recieving strong attendances. Toulon is the captial city of the Var departément in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France. The region is home to France´s third largest city, Marseilles which does not have a team in the Top 14. As such Toulon has had success in moving matches to the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles which in 2011 is France´s second largest stadium with a seating capacity of 60,000. The stadium hosted four Pool Matches and two Quarter Finals during Rugby World Cup 2007 and has been a regular venue used to host Top 14 play-offs matches including both Semi Finals of the 2010-2011 season. Toulon has been benefitting greatly from the popularity of rugby in Marseilles and has succeed in moving matched to the Stade Velodrome and attracting large crowds in similar fashion to that of Stade Français, Biarritz and Toulouse. The opportunity of filling large stadiums has brought in significant earnings for clubs and it has, importantly, also enhanced the profile of the club. As such Toulon, has quickly been able to build a bigger name for itself than a number of more traditional sides such as Brive and Castres.

Remarkably Toulon failed to qualify for the 2011-2012 Heineken Cup after finishing in th bottom half of the Top 14 ladder last season. This has resulted in the club making a number of changes to its squad with players both coming and going. Pumas captain, Felipe Contepomi has left for Stade Français as has former English international winger Paul Sackey. While the club has signed Australian flyhalf Matt Giteau and French international centre Mathieu Bastareud. Neither of whom are playing at the ongoing World Cup in New Zealand.  The club does have Fijian international centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu, English international flyhalf Johnny Wilkinson and French international winger, Alexis Palisson playing at the World Cup. The teams vice-captain, Pumas backrower, Juan Fernández Lobbe is also at the World Cup. The club should have a strong season and be contenders for the title.

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