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'Dodged a bullet': Julian Savea hits back at Toulon fan following club president's cryptic comments

By Sam Smith

Trending on RugbyPass

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Former All Blacks star Julian Savea has hit back at suggestions linking him to cryptic comments made by Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre overnight.

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Speaking at a press conference where 10 new players were unveiled by Toulon ahead of the 2021-22 season, Lemaitre is reported to have claimed that the club was in talks with a “very, very impressive player”.

However, he reportedly said Toulon weren’t able to sign the player, who he hinted was a second-five, because they were “influenced” away from the club by an “All Black colleague”.

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Sir John Kirwan expresses concerns over All Blacks midfield without Ngani Laumape
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Sir John Kirwan expresses concerns over All Blacks midfield without Ngani Laumape

“I can tell you regarding the centre three-quarter position that we were on the trail of a very, very impressive player,” Lemaitre said, according to blog-rct.com.

“I think we were in the nails given our proposal. But ultimately, not the player but undoubtedly his wife, preferred another city than that of Toulon as a living environment. It certainly influenced the player.

“I also believe that certain remarks made by one of his former All Black colleagues who left us, might have given us food for thought. This player went elsewhere. We regret it because we did an enormous job to try to get him to come.

“That said, we are still on a calibre as they say in the field, which is likely to be added to the workforce but also to bring added value in terms of quality, in particular at the number 12 position.”

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While Lemaitre didn’t identify which player Toulon was reportedly in talks with, blog-rct.com claimed that Savea, who played for Toulon between 2018 and 2020, was “clearly” the “All Black colleague” that “derailed the recruitment” of the targeted player.

The French-based site also questioned whether the player on Lemaitre’s radar was departing All Blacks midfielder and Savea’s Hurricanes teammate Ngani Laumape, who will join Toulon’s Top 14 rivals Stade Francais next month.

Savea has since taken to Twitter to reject those claims, though, as he said that he “didn’t need to convince anyone to not sign” with Toulon as the club’s “reputation of how they treat players speaks highly of itself”.

The 54-test international endured a tumultuous time during his two-year spell with Toulon, where he was the subject of a public fallout with former club president Mourad Boudjellal.

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Boudjellal told French radio station RMC in February 2019 that Savea “wasn’t welcome at Toulon anymore” after he scored six tries from 22 appearances throughout his maiden campaign with the club.

“I’m going to ask for a DNA test. They must have swapped him on the plane. If I were him I would apologise and go back to my home country,” Boudjellal said at the time.

“I’ve told him that he was free to go and wasn’t welcome at Toulon anymore.”

Savea also copped criticism from Toulon fans after he left the team midway through the 2018-19 season to attend his brother Ardie’s wedding in Fiji, despite the trip being part of his deal with the club.

That led Savea’s wife, Fatima, to hit out at fans shortly after Boudjellal’s comments as she said she was “absolutely disgusted” while retweeting abuse directed at her husband, which included warnings that he would be spat on at Toulon’s next game, wishing cancer on his mother and labelling him “fatman”.

“Take a minute to think about how your words can affect someone’s life and their mental health,” Fatima Savea said in now-deleted tweets.

“And people wonder why mental health in rugby had become a big problem. Take a minute to be considerate of people’s feelings instead of bashing them behind a keyboard or phone screen.”

In the wake of his response to blog-rct.com‘s claims, Julian Savea said Laumape had “dodged a bullet” by not signing with Toulon as he retweeted a reply from a Toulon fan who labelled the 30-year-old as a “piece of s***”.

Laumape then took to Twitter himself to explain that he and his wife opted to sign with Stade Francais as they “wanted to experience the Paris lifestyle” and that Savea had “said nothing but amazing things about Toulon”.

Upon the completion of his two-year, $1.65m-per-season deal with Toulon, Savea returned to New Zealand last year to sign with the Wellington Lions in the NPC.

He went on to re-sign with the Hurricanes for the 2021 season, a campaign of which he made 11 appearances and scored five tries for the Wellington-based franchise.

Savea signed a two-year contract extension with the Hurricanes in April that will keep him at Sky Stadium until 2023.

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'Dodged a bullet': Julian Savea hits back at Toulon fan following club president's cryptic comments

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