RFU : Toulon’s Premiership bid a “long-shot”

RFU Boss Ian Ritchie says that Toulon's move to the Premiership in a long shot

England’s Rugby Football Union Chief Exective Ian Ritchie says that Toulon President Mourad Boudjellal’s plan to move his club from the Top 14 is a “long shot”.

Boudjellal revealed to French press on Thursday that he wanted his club to leave the Premiership and that he had been in touch with Premiership bosses over the move.

The Premiership’s ruling body have now confirmed that he they had been approached by the European champions’ owner and had held talks about the move.

Boudjellal has become frustrated with Top 14 bosses doing what he sees as “meddling” in his private business and in in particular changes to the Top 14’s salary cap which could see Toulon fined if they pay contracts to their star-studded side agreed before the changes were introduced.

The Toulon president has insisted the approach to the Premiership is “not a provocation” to get what he wants from French authorities but Ritchie said that, in any event, the required ratification by the RFU, English rugby union’s governing body, was unlikely.

“Toulon haven’t approached us – I heard about it at the same time as everyone else did on Thursday. It was a bolt out of the blue, there weren’t any discussions beforehand,” Ritchie said.

“As I understand it – and I haven’t had time to go into gory details – the French authorities will have a view on it as well.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s still a hypothetical. You have to reflect on it, but it’s fair to say it’s a long shot,” he added at a an RFU presentation at Maidenhead Rugby Club, south-west of London, where the impact of last year’s home World Cup in increasing participation in the sport was discussed.

Meanwhile the chief executive of Premiership side Gloucester said Toulon’s proposed involvement in the league “doesn’t stack up for a thousand reasons”.

With the RFU also unlikely to risk a rift with the French Rugby Federation over such a move, Gloucester’s Stephen Vaughan said: “It doesn’t stack up for a thousand reasons, it wouldn’t get sanctioned by the union or the league.

“It would also throw into question the size of the league and the structure, who would get promoted and relegated, because you couldn’t have an extra game from a player welfare perspective.

“There are so many ways in which it couldn’t really get off the ground.

“I can’t see one overseas club joining an existing league, it would have to be a joining-together of nations as per the Pro12 (Celtic League) really.”

However, Vaughan added: “What Toulon’s position perhaps does show however is the wide appeal that the Premiership can boast.

“I think it’s the most competitive league. The Top 14 is very strong, but what I like about the Premiership is that you can genuinely say there are probably eight teams at the start of any season hoping and aspiring to finish in the top four.

“I don’t think you get that in another league.”

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