France stalwart Mathieu Bastareaud has published a video message to confirm he will play in the new American league following the World Cup in Japan.
However, the 30-year-old has instead finalised a completely different move away from the Top 14 following a meeting between Mourad Boudjellal and Pierre Arnald, the general manager of Rugby United New York, that was also attended by Bastareaud and his agent in Toulon.
Arnald, the former Stade Francais employee, is said to have fielded calls from numerous French internationals before taking Bastareaud into consideration. The midfielder’s willingness to take a hefty pay cut in order to sample the Big Apple experience was what interested the fledgling Rugby United.
New York will welcome him from December 1, 2019, until the end of June 2020 before he then returns to Toulon. Club coach Patrice Collazo and owner Boudjellal were not opposed to their player’s desire to temporarily leave.
“I’m not going to be secretive, these are my last matches in Toulon, I try to live it thoroughly,” he said. “I chose to join the New York team. It’s a new adventure for me. It’s important for me to finish here. I wanted to change. It was the best compromise for me at family level, life experience and to play rugby.”
Boudjellal only ever set a couple of conditions in order to facilitate Bastareaud’s desire for a change of scenery: there would be no move to England nor to a club that Toulon could potentially face in the Champions Cup.
Rugby United New York have made a strong start to this season’s Major League Rugby, winning eight of their first 11 matches to sit fourth in the nine-team league.
Their biggest signing prior to Bastareaud’s capture was Ben Foden, the 33-year-old former England International who won 34 caps before quitting the Premiership for a stint across the Atlantic.
— Rugby United New York (@rugbyunitedny) April 23, 2019
Foden said after he signed: “I fully believe America to be the next big rugby playing nation and can’t wait to help develop young talent through the professional ranks.
“My family and I have always wanted to venture over across the pond to America, and now have the opportunity, which we look forward to seizing with both hands.”
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