Toulon coach Patrice Collazo has responded to the drama surrounding club owner Mourad Boudjellal and star wing Julian Savea by labelling the drama as a “fake problem”.
Boudjellal has come under fire from prominent figures within the rugby fraternity for what many believe to be overly harsh comments made after Toulon’s loss to Agen last week on Savea’s underwhelming performances for the club since joining last year.
Collazo has included Savea in an extended 26-man squad for this weekend’s Top 14 clash with Pau, and the former All Black was at the forefront of the media’s attention at a pre-match press conference on Thursday.
Collazo would not disclose whether Savea would make the final 23-man match day squad, but confirmed that the 28-year-old missed training on Thursday as he was in Berg.
“I know you’re all waiting for a reaction because it sells, it’s the headlines, it’s the buzz, it’s talk,” Collazo told reporters.
“Today, I have a match to prepare for and if I consider that Julian Savea can bring something to the team, he will be in the team. If I consider that he is not competitive and does not deserve to play, I will not put him on the team. But I do not need to be told what to do.”
Collazo said that Toulon’s problems this season – which has seen them dip to 11th in the Top 14 and fail to qualify for the knockout stages of the European Champions Cup – were not solely a result of Savea’s lack of form.
“Julian Savea is a fake problem. It’s collectively that things are not going well,” he said.
“Some names have been mentioned, but I think that in the Agen match, apart from three or four players and the bench that brought me something … we totally passed through.
“The most important thing for me is that the team plays together, that the team wants to do things together. For me, the most important is the team, the club and the reaction that we give in the field. The rest, for me … these are things that make you talk, make the buzz and fill pages and social networks.
“I do not need to make statements in the newspapers. I lock myself with the player between four walls and tell him what I think. When a player does not play, there are three possibilities: either he was not good and he leaves the team, either it is a strategic choice or he is left to rest. There are not 50 solutions. I work on sports criteria.”
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