Very few teams, if any, have had a story quite like Toulon’s over the past decade. When 2010 began, the French side were only midway through their second season in the Top 14 and were beaten in the Challenge Cup final, losing to Cardiff Blues.
However, there were clear signs that the big-spending club, backed by comic book publisher Mourad Boudjellal (who recently announced he will move on next summer), were aiming for the top.
Some were sceptical that Toulon were largely building a team of retiring players that were past it. However, three years later they were winning their first of an unprecedented three consecutive European Cups, adding a Top 14 title in 2014 as well.
Ever since their glory days during the first half of the decade, Toulon have dropped off the pace somewhat. Since their 2015 triumph in Europe, they have failed to get past the quarter-finals and did not even make it out of their pool last year.
In the Top 14, they were runners-up in 2016 and 2017, but finished ninth last season, their lowest finish in the league this decade.
(Continue reading below…)
They have still not relented in signing some of the biggest players in the world and are sure to bounce back from their slump in recent years. But in what has been a hugely successful decade, there are plenty of players vying to make an all-decade team.
15 – Delon Armitage
Many will argue that British and Irish Lion Leigh Halfpenny has been a better player over the past decade, but few would argue that he was better for Toulon than Armitage. The former England international was a rock at the back during his four years and starred with so many quality performers around him.
14 – Drew Mitchell
Pushed all the way by Josua Tuisova to make this position, Mitchell was another member of the contingent that joined in 2013. The former Australia international was a brilliant acquisition and his solo try in the 2015 Champions Cup final epitomised not only what a brilliant player he was throughout his career, but at Toulon as well.
Le end of an erahttps://t.co/crNdvIydn0
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 2, 2019
13 – Mathieu Bastareaud
The former Stade Francais centre was vindicated for his lucrative move down south in 2011 when he won his first Heineken Cup in 2013, being named man of the match in the final. He moved on this past summer after eight great years.
12 – Matt Giteau
Although dual RWC winner Ma’a Nonu played in recent years for the club, no inside centre had a greater impact than Wallaby centurion Giteau during his six years. Wilkinson’s playmaking partner in the middle of the field, the Australian even took over at fly-half once the Englishman retired. Such was his form for Toulon that the Wallabies even introduced the Giteau Law to ensure he could play at the 2015 RWC.
11 – Bryan Habana
Although Julian Savea, one of the great wingers of world rugby over the past decade, is currently at the club, he has failed to make the impact Habana made after joining in 2013. He was another player brought in to achieve the double in 2014 – and it paid off.
It will soon be all over at Toulon for Mourad Boudjellal who has been busy reflecting on his title-winning ownership of the French clubhttps://t.co/XxsEcUwlbd
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 10, 2019
10 – Jonny Wilkinson
When England’s legendary fly-half moved to Toulon in 2009, no one truly knew how long he would last after a career defined by injuries as much as the success he achieved. However, the 2003 RWC winner had five glorious years, captaining the team to the Top 14 and two European Cups. He was named European player of the year in 2013 and capped his wonderful career with a typical Wilkinson-esque performance in the 2014 Top 14 final, kicking 15 of 18 points, including a trademark drop goal.
9 – Sébastien Tillous-Borde
With the star-studded teams that Toulon have fielded over the past decade, Tillous-Borde’s name is not one that immediately jumps out, but the former France international was at the heart of all of his club’s success over the past decade in the nine shirt. Alongside Fernández Lobbe, the scrum-half remained part of the coaching team after retirement.
1 – Xavier Chiocci
While England’s Andrew Sheridan was helpful in building Toulon’s initial success, Chiocci was his successor who helped his side grow in strength. The loosehead made his debut in 2011 as a 21-year-old having come through Toulon’s academy, which goes against the reputation that his side have garnered that they simply bought their success.
View this post on Instagram
2 – Guilhem Guirado
Having only joined in 2014 from Perpignan and having since moved to Montpellier, Guirado did not enjoy all of the success that some of his team-mates did, albeit he did win the Champions Cup in 2015. However, the France captain’s form for club and country has been exemplary over the past five years.
3 – Carl Hayman
The giant former All Black arrived at the Stade Mayol in 2010 and was at the forefront of all the success achieved there over the next five years. What’s more, Hayman took over from Jonny Wilkinson as captain once the Englishman retired in 2014, leading them to European glory in 2015 before retiring himself.
4 – Ali Williams
In a position that has seen the ever-reliable Mamuka Gorgodze play, South Africans Danie Rossouw and even the recent signing of Eben Etzebeth, the 2011 World Cup winner’s two-year stint between 2013-2015 helped bring the Top 14 title and two European Cups. Williams was even named the man of the match in the 2015 final.
?Présence du Père Nöel, distribution de cadeaux et le traditionnel feu d'artifice d'après-match !?
— RCT – RC Toulon (@RCTofficiel) December 7, 2019
5 – Bakkies Botha
Only one player may have made a greater impact in the second row than Williams, and that is 2007 RWC winner Botha. The South African joined in 2011 and was at the epicentre of all the success on the Côte d’Azur. He was part of the exodus of players in 2015, which helps explain Toulon’s decline.
6 – Juan Smith
With a policy of recruiting great players that could be past their prime, there is always the danger that they will not perform and that certainly has happened over the years. But Smith is yet another example of a player that did not see his move to the Mediterranean coast simply as an opportunity to boost his coffers before retirement.
7 – Steffon Armitage
One of the greatest success stories over the past decade, he arrived in 2011 from London Irish as a player on the fringes of the England team with only five caps. A devastating ball-carrier and immovable over the ball, the loose forward won everything there is to win during his five years and was also named the European player of the year in 2014. Facundo Isa has proven to be sensational in recent years but is yet to reach the heights that Armitage did.
8 – Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe
Fernández Lobbe complemented Armitage in the back row alongside Chris Masoe during Toulon’s halcyon days. Whether No8 or a flanker, the Argentine was always a classy operator at the back of the scrum.
WATCH: Follow all the action from the Heineken Champions Cup in the RugbyPass Live Match Centre with commentary, stats, news and more, plus live streaming in some places – click Sign Up Now to see what is available in your region
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now