22 Jan 2016

Toulon want to play in English Premiership

7:58 am on 22 January 2016

The French rugby side Toulon say they want to leave their domestic league to play in the English Premiership.

Toulon rugby owner Mourad Boudjellal.

Toulon rugby owner Mourad Boudjellal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

President Mourad Boudjellal sent an email to Premiership bosses proposing the move from the Top 14, which a spokesman said they would consider.

Boudjellal has made public his frustrations with the Top 14, related to the salary cap and bonus payments.

"The economic future is in England rather than France because of the way the two leagues are governed. The English make good decisions."

Toulon are currently top of their Champions Cup pool and fourth in the Top 14.

Toulon's expensively-assembled squad is packed with world stars like Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Ma'a Nonu, Leigh Halfpenny, Quade Cooper, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Duane Vermeulen.

And England World Cup winner Ben Kay believes Boudjellal's initiative might be aimed at "ruffling a few feathers" to get what he wants in France.

Boudjellal told French newspaper L'Equipe: "If this is not possible the next season, maybe the one after that."

He added: "For them [the English], besides a big first, it would be a huge added value. And I'm serious in my approach."

Ma'a Nonu playing for Toulon.

Ma'a Nonu playing for Toulon. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Cote d'Azur club have risen up the French leagues under Boudjellal's reign to become multiple European champions.

Any switch would require the approval of the Rugby Football Union, the governing body for rugby union in England, which said it had not been contacted by Boudjellal, as well as the French Rugby Federation.

And given the complications of any move, informed observers of the game say it appears unlikely to happen.

Top 14 clubs have a larger salary cap than those in England, at 10 million Euros compared to 6.7 million.

That money has allowed French clubs to sign stars such as World Cup-winning All Blacks Dan Carter (Racing 92), Ma'a Nonu (Toulon) and Conrad Smith (Pau), plus South Africa's 2007 world champion winger Bryan Habana (Toulon).