Toulon endured a miserable season past for a team of their pedigree. They finished 9th in the Top 14 and performed pitifully in the Champions Cup, a competition they have won three times over the past decade.
They will seek to rebuild next season in the Top 14 and the Challenge Cup, with a number of huge names arriving at the Stade Mayol. Conversely, some of their biggest stars such as Mathieu Bastareaud, Guilhem Guirado and JP Pietersen have all left.
However, while Toulon have been famed over the years of buying in big names, usually in the twilight of their career, they have also invested wisely in youth, and have some of the most promising French players coming through their ranks.
With a blend of youth and experience, Toulon could establish themselves as giants of the Top 14 once again next season, and this is how they could look:
15 Hugo Bonneval
A skillful and creative force at the back for Toulon, Bonneval could link up with the superstar backline nicely.
14 Nehe Milner-Skudder
The 2015 World Cup winner and World Breakthrough Player of the Year is one of many huge signings. He has electric speed and footwork out wide, and should he stay fit, he will devastate defences across France.
13 Julian Savea
In the absence of the powerful Bastareaud at outside-centre, the 54-cap All Black could make a slight positional adjustment. He had a turbulent first season on the south coast and a strained relationship with Presiden Mourad Boudjellal, and will hope to bounce back this coming season.
12 Ma’a Nonu
The legendary All Black has spent the first half of 2019 in Super Rugby with the Blues, but is rumoured to be making a return. He will battle it out with incoming Julien Hériteau from Agen for the 12 shirt.
11 Bryce Heem
For a number of seasons, Heem was one of Worcester Warriors’ best players, and many people are curious to see how he fairs in a stronger team. He is extremely well rounded, and could find himself in a number of positions throughout the season.
With 23-year-old Antony Belleau France international also in the squad, Toulon are set for a great battle for the 10 shirt. But this may be the season where two-time world under-20 champion Carbonel claims the fly-half berth.
France international Serin is another major signing, as he arrives from Bordeaux this summer. While Rhys Webb will occupy the 9 shirt during the World Cup, the Frenchman could displace him as the season goes on.
8 Sergio Parrise
A titan of European and world rugby, Parisse needs no introduction and is making a massive move after spending 15 years with Stade Francais. He may be 35 years of age, but few would bet against the number eight making a major impact.
7 Facundo Isa
The dynamic Argentinian has been one of Toulon’s best players over the past few years in a star-studded pack. Tireless and powerful, the openside gets his hands on the ball as much as possible and causes a lot of damage.
6 Liam Messam
The 35-year-old Messam may form an aging back-row alongside Parisse, but his experience and complete game means he will surely still be a force next season in red.
5 Romain Taofifénua
Taofifénua may be out of the reckoning for the France team at the moment, but the behemoth of a lock is set to make up one of the most terrifying second-row partnerships in Europe this coming season.
4 Eben Etzebeth
Former South Africa skipper Etzebeth is easily one of the best locks in the world and is joining the French giants in his prime. The ferocious Springbok will bring a lot of firepower to the Toulon pack as they seek to rediscover their dominance up front.
3 Emerick Setiano
Called into France’s World Cup training squad, the 22-year-old tighthead is the ‘new breed’ of prop- brutal in the scrum, dynamic in the loose. Whether Setiano starts or South African Marcel van der Merwe does, Toulon’s scrummaging prowess will not let up over 80 minutes, with class on the bench as well.
2 Christopher Tolofua
The former Saracen has massive boots to fill with France captain Guirado moving to Montpellier, but after two seasons with the European champions, he may be up to that task.
1 Jean-Baptiste Gros
Big things are expected of two-time World Rugby Under-20 Championship winner, and this may be the season where the 6ft 5, 20-year-old loosehead announces himself to the rest of Europe. He became established at Toulon last season, and this season will be a chance for him to kick on.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.