Blues’ Ma’a Nonu is on the verge of a dramatic return to former club Toulon, according to reports in France.
The 37-year-old former All Black could sign a one-year deal with the Top 14 club as cover for Mathieu Bastareaud, who has taken a sabbatical to join Rugby United New York for one season of US Major League Rugby. It has even been suggested a contract is on the table awaiting Nonu’s signature. And comments from president Mourad Boudjellal at the club’s end-of-season garden party this week have done little to quell the rumours.
At the event, at Toulon’s soon-to-be-redeveloped Berg training ground, Boudjellal confirmed the 12 players who have signed for the club ahead of the new Top 14 campaign, which kicks off on August 26, 2019. But he also revealed: “Recruitment is not over. We will hold a press conference around June 15. We are talking with important players. Things are moving forward.”
Asked if that meant confirmation of the return of Nonu to the Mediterranean coast, he merely said: “All in [good] time!”
Nonu joined Toulon after the 2015 World Cup. He played 77 times, and scored 14 tries, for the French club before returning to New Zealand at the end of the 2017/18 Top 14 season. He appeared in two Top 14 finals – in 2016 and 2017 – finishing on the losing side on each occasion.
He has scored three times in 13 outings since joining the Blues ahead of the current Super Rugby campaign. But his form has not been enough to prompt New Zealand coach Steve Hansen to name him among an initial 41-player extended training squad for September’s World Cup. The All Blacks’ squad has not been finalised for Japan, so all hope is not lost, but one last lucrative season in France may prove too tempting an opportunity to miss.
The 12 confirmed Toulon signings for 2019/20: Gervais Cordin; Théo Dachary; Masivesi Dakuwaka; Eben Etzebeth; Bryce Heem; Julien Heriteau; Thomas Hoarau; Nehe Milner-Skuder; Duncan Paia’aua; Baptiste Serin; Christopher Tolofua; Gabin Villiere. If Nonu signs, he will be the 11th non-France qualified player to join Toulon for 2019/2020. The maximum per squad for established Top 14 teams for the new season is 15.
Teams must also name an average of 16 France-qualified players per matchday squad next season, or risk league points deduction.
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