Toulon have taken grave issue with Rhys Webb’s recent criticism of the Top 14 club. Amicably released from the final year of his three-year deal which was due to last until summer 2021, the scrum-half was instead allowed to secure a contract for next season at Ospreys.
However, after using this winter-arranged deal to then encourage Wayne Pivac and the WRU to overlook the 60-cap rule for selection of non-Wales based players, the French club lost their patience with Webb and instead of the player seeing the 2019/20 season out at Toulon he was allowed to leave earlier than planned.
A pair of Guinness Six Nations appearances as a sub for Wales were backed up by a short-term deal at Premiership club Bath, before his swift departure from Toulon was revisited in a recent guest appearance on the BBC Scrum V podcast.
Webb’s Test squad recall had caused ructions as the club with leading figures at Toulon – such as new owner Bernard Lemaitre and president Mourad Boudjellal – taking to the media in France to criticise the half-back.
“The worst thing is they wouldn’t say it face-to-face,” said Webb on the podcast. “They did all their talking straight to the French media, so I’d only find out the next day in training when the boys would tell me.
“When my family first left, he [Boudjellal] said something (in the media) but then the next week I was man of the match against Lyon and he was high-fiving me, hugging me in training so I was like ‘Is this guy for real?’ They didn’t have the decency to talk to me face-to-face.
“The players at Toulon were there for me when it all started coming out that Toulon wanted to get rid of me… and I would have been happy to stay until the end of the season. I knew I was coming back to the Ospreys at the end of the season so I thought I’d have a good last six months there, enjoy it and try and go out on a high. It just went a bit sour.”
That sourness has now resurfaced at Toulon, their coach Patrice Collazo dissatisfied with Webb’s recollections of their split. Speaking in an interview with Var Matin reported on rugbyrama.fr, he said: “I see that Rhys has complained about the way we treated him in Toulon. He just omitted a few big details. In fact, there were several aspects.
“The first, when he announced to me last June that his wife wanted to return to Wales. I asked him if that was a problem for him. He told me that it was not and assured me that he will keep all of his commitments. I, for my part, agreed to arrange his timetable in complete transparency with respect to the other players so that he could see his family from time to time.
“In October we hear that his CV is circulating in England. We asked Rhys if he wanted to leave but he categorically denied it. Then in December, he announced that he no longer wanted to go through with his contract and wanted to be released.
“I explained to him that the moment was not very well chosen but that I could understand. He still assured me that he was going to have a big end of the season. For my part, I spoke with (director) Laurent Emmanuelli and to the president so that he released him for free. Rhys thanked me.
“As soon as he had this agreement, he approached the Welsh federation to try to be reinstated in the national team for the Six Nations and we learned in January, 24 hours before a match, that he would now be selectable.
“Disappointed by his behaviour, I decided to leave him out despite the absence of (Baptiste) Serin and the unavailability of (Anthony) Meric. I didn’t give him an explanation since he didn’t give one to me. I don’t think loyalty can be one way. It’s a framework that I cannot override. No player is above the institution.
“We did a lot for him, I just expected loyalty and involvement from him. From the moment he left us in trouble, it was clear that we were no longer his priority, so we had to negotiate his immediate and final exit.”
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