Mourad Boudjellal is not leaving Toulon. After months of speculation that he was going to sell the club, the president announced a week before Christmas that he will remain at the helm. And so the story that began in 2006 will continue for the foreseeable future with Boudjellal promising several big signings for next season as he looks to steer Toulon back to the top of European rugby.
Love him or loath him, Boudjellal has been a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of French rugby, the man who when he took over the club in June 2006 mocked himself for being best known in his native Toulon as “the Arab in the Ferrari”. Along the way he’s made enemies and courted controversy while steadfastly pumping an estimated €7m of his own money into reviving the fortunes of Toulon.
But while he remains at the Mayol, whatever happened to the first XV that played for Toulon in the Boudjellal era? It was a ProD2 clash (Toulon had been relegated the previous season) against Mont-de-Marsan on September 2 2006, a day that few of the crowd present imagined would be the start of an extraordinary adventure.
15: Gonzalo Quesada
After spells with Narbonne, Beziers, Stade Francais and Pau, the gifted Argentine (normally seen at fly-half), finished his career with a season at Toulon, scoring 177 points in his 20 appearances. Quesada then embarked on a coaching career, and is currently in his final season at Stade Francais, having guided them to the Top 14 title in 2015.
14: Dan Luger
A member of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad, the former Harlequins winger signed for Toulon in the summer of 2006 and spent two seasons on the Mayol, scoring eight tries in 46 outings. Luger now lives in Monaco where he works in the finance industry and as of this season he is the commercial director for the Principality’s rugby club.
13: Rob Henderson
The former Ireland and Lions centre wound down his career on the Cote d’Azur after spells at London Irish, Wasps and Munster. Henderson scored six tries in 23 starts for Toulon before retiring in May 2007, and he now runs a property-consulting business in London.
12: David Douy
After four seasons at Narbonne, Douy joined Toulon in the summer of 2005 and remained with them until the end of the 2007-08 season. He finished his career with La Seyne, a Federale One club, and became their fitness coach upon retiring from the game in 2013.
11: Marc Andreu
Still going strong at the age of 31, the winger was back at the Stade Mayol on New Year’s Day, as a member of the Racing 92 XV that lost to Toulon. Andreu spent four seasons at Toulon before joining Castres in 2009 and then moving to the Parisian outfit at the start of the 2013-14 season.
10: Chris Rossouw
Capped nine times by the Springboks, Rossouw made his name with the Stormers before arriving at Toulon in the 2005-06 season. In his 55 appearances for the club, Rossouw scored 203 points before returning to South Africa in 2008 for a swansong with the Free State Cheetahs. He is currently backs’ coach of the Western Province Under-21s squad.
9: Norman Jordaan
Jordaan’s solitary Springbok cap as a replacement during South Africa’s 53-3 humbling against England in 2002. After spells with the Bulls and the Lions, he spent a season with Aix-en-Provence before arriving at Toulon in the summer of 2006. Jordaan had three seasons with the club and then went into coaching, most recently with the Stellenbosch University club.
8: Soane Toevalu
Now in his fourteenth season, the French back-rower began his career with Pau in what was then the Top 16. He then spent four seasons at Toulon, making 72 appearances in total. Spells followed at Mont-de-Marsan, Lourdes and Beziers, and Toevalu now plays for Federale 2 club Hyères, just a few miles up the coast from Toulon.
7: Siaki Tukino
Despite being a regular in his one season at Toulon, making 25 appearances, the Tongan flanker moved to Grenoble at the end of the 2006-07 season, where he stayed for four years. Tukino, who played eight times for his country, then joined Romans-sur-Isère in Federale One before retiring in 2015.
6: Eric Espagno (captain)
Just 22 when he captained Toulon to a thumping 49-12 victory over Mont-de-Marsan in Mourad Boudjellal’s first match as president, the Frenchman was a regular in the 2005-06 season but soon became surplus to requirements as the overseas stars began to arrive. After spending the 2007-08 season with Italian club Amatori Catania, Espagno had a couple of seasons at Auch before ending his career with Montauban. He now works for a relocation company in Toulouse.
5: Nicky Smit
The giant South African joined Toulon from the Boland Cavaliers in 2005-06 and made 48 appearances for the club in two seasons. In 2007 he signed for Federale One club Massy, in the suburbs of Paris, and spent five seasons with them before becoming coach of their U19 squad. Diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012, Smit died in France two years later aged 35.
4: Nico Breedt
An ever-present for Toulon in 2006-07, Breedt left the club at the end of the following season and returned to South Africa, where he spent two seasons with the Free State Cheetahs before a neck injury forced him into premature retirement. After a coaching spell with the Sharks academy, Breedt is now the owner of Balfour Scrap Metals in Durban.
3: Jean-Jacques Crenca
Capped 39 times by France between 1996 and 2004, the veteran prop signed for Toulon from Agen in the summer of 2006 and played 29 times in what was his final season of top-flight rugby. Crenca is currently the forwards coach at Agen.
2: Jean-Baptiste Rué
Thirty-two when he signed for Toulon in the summer of 2006 after several seasons with Agen, Rué joined Amatori Catania in Italy the following year. Upon retiring he served for a number of seasons as general manager of semi-pro club Nevers, before severing ties with rugby to work in mental health care.
1: Gia Kutarashvili
Capped 11 times by Georgia between 2004 and 2006, Kutarashvili joined Toulon in the summer of 2006 and left the following year for Narbonne before spells for various semi-pro French clubs. Currently the forwards coach for Federale Two outfit Annecy.