Saturday 10 December 2016

Paul O'Connell and Toulon could be headed for the Aviva Premiership

Published 21/01/2016 | 12:28

Toulon celebrate their second European crown
Toulon celebrate their second European crown

If club president Mourad Boudjellalhas has his way, Paul O'Connell and the rest of the Toulon Galacticos will be playing their domestic rugby in the Aviva Premiership in the not too distant future.

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Boudjellal has written to Aviva Premiership chiefs about the possibility of his reigning European champions joining English rugby's flagship domestic competition.

A Premiership Rugby spokesman confirmed to Press Association Sport that a letter was received via email from the French club on Wednesday night.

"It is a bit early for us to make a formal response," the spokesman said. "But we will be doing so in due course. It does show the appeal of Premiership rugby."

Outspoken Toulon chief Boudjellal told French newspaper L'Equipe that his club's Premiership presence would offer "a huge added value".

Boudjellal has had an ongoing and often bitter battle with organisers of the Top 14 - France's premier domestic competition - about matters such as the 10million euro (£7.7million) salary cap, and most recently, new rules that were introduced last summer regarding player bonus payments now being part of the cap if they amount to more than 10 per cent of a player's salary.

Toulon's expensively-assembled squad is packed with world stars like Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Leigh Halfpenny, Quade Cooper, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Duane Vermeulen.

England World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson inspired them to a first European title in 2013, with that trophy being retained the following season and in 2015. Victory over Bath at the Recreation Ground on Saturday should secure a Champions Cup quarter-final place and keep Toulon on course for an unprecedented fourth successive European crown.

Speaking about what will be widely viewed as an audacious and improbable move, Boudjellal said: "I wrote for a contact. If this is not possible the next season, maybe the one after that. For them (the English), besides a big first, it would be a huge added value. And I'm serious in my approach."

All cross-border competitions require approval, which would mean involvement at some stage from the Rugby Football Union and French Rugby Federation if Boudjellal follows up his initial contact by pursuing a Premiership place. The Premiership currently comprises 12 clubs, with a salary cap of £5.1million per club, plus two excluded players whose salaries sit outside the cap. Mourad Boudjellal That base level figure rises to £6.5m next season, then £7m for 2017-18.

Press Association

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