Ollivon headlines Toulon's push into 'new era'

by Olivier LUCAZEAU
France captain Charles Ollivon has extended his Toulon contract as club president Bernard Lemaitre unveiled a five-year plan

France captain Charles Ollivon has extended his Toulon contract by five years, as club president Bernard Lemaitre unveiled a five-year plan for the three-time European champions to once again become "the stand-out club in France, Europe and the world".

Also signing up for another season is ex-Italy skipper Sergio Parisse, the No 8 who touched down at Toulon from Stade Francais on a year's deal in 2019, and had been hoping for one final Test for Italy in Rome before his international retirement.

Flanker Ollivon was catapulted into the France captaincy by coach Fabien Galthie on the back of his form for Toulon and went on to shine for les Bleus.

But aside from Ollivon, Parisse and South Africa's World Cup-winning lock Eben Etzebeth, Toulon have made few recent waves in the transfer market. The Mediterranean club has seen 12 players leave, but just three recruits come in, notably Clermont's ex-All Black back Isaia Toeava, 34.

Lemaitre said the club was entering a "new era". It is a far cry from the galactico days of ex-president Mourad Boudjellal, whose huge budget over 14 years at the helm saw him attract a raft of the best players on the planet.

The likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana, Joe van Niekerk, Tana Umaga, Ma'a Nonu and Carl Hayman have all donned the red and black of Toulon.

And with that incredible outlay came success: three back-to-back European Cup trophies in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well as the Top 14 title in 2014 and the final in three other seasons (2012, 2013, 2016, 2017).

- No more galacticos -

"It's a recruitment that could seem to not be flashy, but we're OK with it," Toulon sporting director Laurent Emmanuelli said after releasing details on Ollivon and Parisse on Friday.

Lemaitre said it was a "squad capable of allowing us to reach our goals", adding that in terms of recruitment he had become "very careful after some very, very big disappointments".

Lemaitre, an 81-year-old who made his fortune in the biopharmaceutical sector, said he had a more global vision for Toulon and was of the mind that the European Cup will be scrapped and replaced by a world club competition.

"Certainly, the European Cup is a great tournament, but one that does not bring much to clubs in budgetary terms. And money is a necessity," he said.

But, Lemaitre added, Toulon needed to adopt "sound economic and financial management" after years of "a model that led into the wall".

"We don't have the means of that policy," Lemaitre said, without naming Boudjellal.

A new state-of-the-art training centre, with the emphasis on boosting a "Toulon identity", would be key to the club in coming years, he added.

France captain Charles Ollivon has extended his Toulon contract as club president Bernard Lemaitre unveiled a five-year plan