The CV of Wales and British and Irish Lions’ scrum-half Rhys Webb is doing the rounds of both French Top 14 and English Premiership clubs, it has been reported.
Webb, who played in two of the Lions’ Tests against New Zealand this summer, and scored a try in the opening international encounter at Ellis Park, has won 30 caps for Wales – is said to be keen to set out on a new challenge when his contract with Pro 14 side Ospreys runs out at the end of the season, according to French rugby newspaper Midi-Olympique.
The 28-year-old’s details are already on the desks of a number of club bosses, the twice-weekly Midol claimed – with clubs on both sides of the Channel reportedly showing interest.
His name has already been linked with Toulon – as is the name of any half-decent international whose contract is up. And, at first glance, it seems there is some justification. The club’s new director of rugby Fabien Galthie has long been an admirer of the Bridgend-born Webb – and regularly sang the Welsh nine’s praises during recent stints as a TV commentator.
The club has been looking for a new scrum-half for some time. In recent years it has tried and failed to tempt internationals Rory Kockott, Baptiste Serin, Greig Laidlaw and Antoine Dupont to the blue-collar south-coast city.
There is more urgency to Toulon’s long search this year, however. There could soon be a opening at nine at Stade Mayol, with Sebastian Tillous-Borde’s contract due to end in June 2018.
But signing Webb would signal a u-turn for Mourad Boudjellal. Earlier this year, he insisted the summer’s overseas spending spree was the club’s last as they seek to build a Top 14 title-winning team that is 100% Made in France.
Webb’s name has also been linked to Montpellier. But with Ruan Pienaar and Benoit Paillaugue both on the books for the next few years, it seems unlikely that Vern Cotter has any interest in signing another frontline international.
Ambitious Pau and Lyon, who both have openings for a senior nine, would seem the more likely destinations, if Webb were to head to France.
But any French club after his signature will face a battle with an English rival. Northampton are hot favourites to secure the signature of his Ospreys, Wales and Lions’ team-mate Dan Biggar. What would Jim Mallinder give to add Webb to the squad at Franklin’s Gardens, and keep that Wales axis turning at club level?
It’s equally possible that Webb’s agents are just raising the contract stakes two years out from the World Cup in Japan…