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Toulon sign Timani five months after failed Super Rugby exemption

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

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French club Toulon have confirmed the signing of Sitaleki Timani, the ex-Wallabies second row who had his ties with Western Force cut at the start of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season when the 35-year-old opted against having the Covid-19 vaccine. Having spent five seasons at Clermont after originally arriving in France at Montpellier in 2013/14, the 2.03m, 117kg forward moved to Perth in 2021 and played in both the Australian club’s campaigns last year.

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However, their relationship ended prior to the start of this year’s new Super Pacific Rugby tournament and Timani has now been snapped up by Toulon on a two-year deal. News of the surprise signing emerged on Tuesday when the French club held a media briefing to set the scene ahead of the new 2022/23 season.     

It was February when RugbyPass reported that Timani was unable to qualify for a medical exemption and his reluctance to have the vaccine meant he couldn’t participate in his club’s Super Rugby Pacific season.

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“I would like to thank the Western Force, my teammates and Rugby Australia for their support and understanding in what has been a difficult decision,” said Timani at the time. “With the help of the Force, I am still consulting specialists but unfortunately with the season about to start, I understand the position it puts both the Western Force and Rugby Australia in.

“This is not how I wanted to end my time in Australian rugby, but I am thankful for the opportunity I had to pull on the Force jersey again and wish them all the best for the upcoming season.”

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“Sitaleki has been a great professional and valued member of the club since re-joining us last season. On behalf of everyone at the Force, I would like to wish Sitaleki and his family all the very best for the future,” added Western Force CEO Tony Lewis five months ago.

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Timani played 18 Test games for the Wallabies between 2011 and 2013 before moving to France where he spent eight productive seasons, durability that worked in his favour when Toulon, now coached by Pierre Mignoni and Franck Azema, came calling. He was recalled to the Wallabies squad last year by Dave Rennie while at the Force but wasn’t capped.   

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