Speculation is mounting that former All Black Ma’a Nonu will leave Toulon for another Top 14 club at the end of the current campaign.
The double World Cup winner has made no secret of the fact that he would be keen to extend his stay at the club for one more season – but mounting cashflow concerns at a club that is very much in economy mode could mean his contract will not be extended, reports in France suggest.
Under pressure from deep-pocketed billionaire-owned rivals such Racing 92, Montpellier and Stade Francais, Toulon no longer has the wherewithal to hold on to its ‘Galactico’ stars – and Champions Cup qualification is vital to the club’s budget.
Three rival Top 14 sides are in the hunt for the 35-year-old Nonu’s signature, including a rejuvenated Toulouse side looking for some wile and experience to go with its youth and promise, according to French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
Club president Mourad Boudjellal did not immediately reply to requests for a comment from the paper’s journalists. But, in November, he indicated his unwillingness to extend any contracts until the club had secured its place in next season’s Champions Cup.
Which could be part of the problem. The top six in France’s Top 14 are guaranteed a Champions Cup place. Toulon, with 38 points, are currently holding on to fifth place in the Top 14. Sixth-placed Toulouse have the same number of points, while Lyon and Bordeaux are just a single point behind in seventh and eighth respectively. Pau, in ninth, are just three points adrift of the play-offs.
Toulon’s battle for an economically vital Champions Cup slot is likely to last until April at least – by which time Nonu’s future away from Stade Mayol could be decided, L’Equipe suggests. Another big name, Duane Vermeulen, is already on his way out, though his born-again Springboks ambitions were reportedly a key factor in his departure. And recently arrived league convert Semi Radradra is reported to be a big-money target for Bordeaux.
Nonu, who has played 66 times since joining Toulon after the 2015 World Cup, was rested for the club’s last Top 14 outing – a last-gasp 13-12 defeat at Brive – but was named alongside Mathieu Bastareaud for the must-win Champions Cup game against Treviso on Sunday, January 14.
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