Toulon focused despite owner's threats
January 4, 2009
Matt Henjak maintains that Toulon are focused on survival © Getty Images
Players from French Top 14 strugglers Toulon were put on notice over Christmas by the club's owner Mourad Boudjellal, the club president being quoted as saying, "Father Christmas is going to buy train and airline tickets for some players."
Despite this ominous statement, scrum-half Matt Henjak has stated that the players' minds are focused on ensuring Top 14 survival. Despite a raft of stars including Henjak, All Black Jerry Collins, rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams and Springbok Joe Van Niekirk all playing at the club, they currently sit third from bottom in the league.
Under the guidance of fomer All Blacks skipper Tana Umaga, the side has failed to rekindle the form that allowed them to win promotion into the Top 14 last season, notching only three wins all season and sliding out of the European Challenge Cup with barely a whimper.
"One thing you can say about Mourad [is] he definitely wants the best for Toulon rugby," Henjak told Australian radio station 2KY. "He might come out in the press and seem like he doesn't, but the one thing that he does have is a lot of passion for Toulon rugby, and he wants Toulon rugby up in the top echelon of Top 14 … he's trying to get the best out of his players.
"I'm not really sure if he's going to send anyone home or anything like that. Maybe if we don't start winning, he might do that, but I've got full confidence that he just wants his players to play a little bit better, and I'm all for it. He's put a lot of money into the side, and he can come out and say that if he wants. We're not worried about it, we're just worried about playing rugby and doing the best we can.
"We've been really unlucky with injuries, but you don't want to blame injuries. There was many new players into the squad from last year, and it's taking that little bit longer to click as a team."
It didn't click for Toulon this weekend, with Clermont Auvergne running roughshod over them in a 32-5 drubbing that sent further shockwaves through the side and coaching staff, with Boujellal's words surely ringing in their ears.
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league