Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb has lifted the lid on his acrimonious departure from Toulon. The 31-year-old, who had been on a short-term pit stop at Bath prior to linking up with the Ospreys for the 2020/21 season, joined the French club in 2018. However, he didn’t see his contract through to its intended expiry and instead secured a return to regional rugby that enabled him to earn two Wales caps off the bench in the recent Six Nations having last been capped in December 2017.
Family reasons resulted in Toulon agreeing to release him from the last year of a deal that was due to last through to 2021, but they then ushered him out of the club even sooner than planned in January this year after he was called into Wayne Pivac’s Six Nations squad, Webb’s signing by the Ospreys sufficient for him to get a selection dispensation and get around the WRU’s 60-cap rule on players based outside Wales.
That Test squad recall caused ructions, as leading figures at Toulon – such as new owner Bernard Lemaitre and president Mourad Boudjellal took to media in France to launch scathing attacks on the half-back. “The worst thing is they wouldn’t say it face-to-face,” said Webb on the latest BBC Scrum V podcast. “They did all their talking straight to the French media, so I’d only find out the next day in training when the boys would tell me.
“When my family first left, he [Boudjellal] said something [in the media] but then the next week I was man of the match against Lyon and he was high-fiving me, hugging me in training so I was like ‘Is this guy for real?’ They didn’t have the decency to talk to me face-to-face.
“The players at Toulon were there for me when it all started coming out that Toulon wanted to get rid of me… and I would have been happy to stay until the end of the season. I knew I was coming back to the Ospreys at the end of the season so I thought I’d have a good last six months there, enjoy it and try and go out on a high. It just went a bit sour,” continued Webb, who is currently working nightshifts to help a friend’s company make personal protective equipment masks for the NHS.
Still bitter with the ex-Wales scrum-half all these years laterhttps://t.co/aN79OEogkw
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2020
“I was turning up to training but they started naming the team for training and if your name wasn’t on the board, you don’t train. And it was only my name not on the board. I just went to the gym on my own, no fitness coach, and when the boys had come off the pitch, I went on to do my fitness and passing and kicking. This went on for about two weeks.
“Toulon were not happy I’d been picked for the Six Nations. They see it as you’re a Toulon player and don’t want you to play for anyone else. I knew I hadn’t done anything to upset anyone. I even said to them I’m going into it [Six Nations] as the third choice so there’s a good chance in the down weeks I’m going to come back and I’ll want to play.
“Because I wasn’t training with anyone and living on my own, I didn’t really see anyone for two weeks. They need to understand that they could do things better, deal with things better by speaking to players directly instead of going to the press. When the time came around and I was picked for the Six Nations, I got the first plane out of there. I just needed to get into a good rugby environment again.”
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