Toulon have revealed it took less than ten days to convince Ma’a Nonu that his future was best served in France rather than return to Major League Rugby in America. The 38-year-old two-time World Cup winner with New Zealand was initially at Toulon for three seasons following the 2015 RWC.

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He then returned home to play a season in Super Rugby with the Blues before embarking on a Californian adventure, joining San Diego Legion for the 2020 MLR campaign. 

That season was terminated after just four matches due to the outbreak of the pandemic and while it was expected he would return to the USA for the 2021 season, Toulon stepped up in recent weeks to convince him to return to France, a deal that was announced an hour before the club’s Challenge Cup semi-final last Saturday against Leicester. 

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Explaining why they targeted a player who will celebrate his 40th birthday in May 2022, majority Toulon shareholder Bernard Lemaitre outlined on rugbyrama.fr: “Our first idea was to find an out-half but at this time of the season, tens of the very high level who are ready and available are rare and we quickly understood that the search for a midfielder should be favoured.

“We were looking for a player who could have a very big influence on the squad because we didn’t want to bring in a player just to make the numbers. Our backline is extremely good, but it remains young, so we had the need for an experienced player. We made a list of names, but Ma’a stood out as obvious. Like Sergio Parisse for the forwards, Ma’a Nonu will be the daddy of the three-quarters.

“The discussions were quick and easy: Ma’a Nonu left Toulon in 2018 regretting not having won a title. He played two Top 14 finals but never won anything, and he won us over, told us from the first contact that he dreamed of winning a title with the RCT. It was something he had in mind, and he preferred the challenge that we offered him to that of San Diego.

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“Ma’a knows how to do everything, has won almost everything in his career and he will bring added value both on and off the pitch,” continued club president Lemaitre. “He’s always in great shape, is an exceptional athlete and we know he is a constant danger for opponents.

“The problem of his age? He is a professional who will always respond. We know that he has always preferred the matches that count: Ma’a Nonu is a player of great matches. The idea is not to make him play all the matches, but to count on him to important matches.”

Currently in the process of finalising his work visa, Toulon hope to have Nonu on board as a medical joker signing before the end of October.  

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