Saturday 22 October 2016

Toulon make money count

French band of winners create a historic hat-trick

It was all about Floyd 'Money' Mayweather junior in Las Vegas; Mourad 'Money' Boudjellal at Twickenham.

The inevitable destination of professionalism takes a course into a world where money is power and where almost everything can be bought and sold for a price.

And so it came to pass on Saturday.

Toulon surpassed Leinster's three Heineken Cups in four years by carrying out an unspoiled three year crusade through Europe.

Where the Irish province toiled, failed, suffered and triumphed with a largely home-grown legion of men, the French club has bludgeoned, battered and bought their claim to being the greatest in double-quick time.

Where Bryan Habana lamented Toulon's presumptuous, over confident approach against Leinster, their set-piece was transformed by their tunnel vision to confront the only other club in rugby which can challenge them as equals. Is the Champions Cup becoming the rugby equivalent of 'La Liga' in Spain where the exclusive two dominate everyone else around them?

Once again, Clermont-Auvergne found themselves second in a final where most of their damage was self-inflicted.


It was simply inconceivable that they could hand over the trophy with appalling indiscipline and such self-destructive disorganisation at all the restarts.

Quite simply, Toulon didn't have to do too much to get what they wanted. They simply absorbed Clermont's early barrage of pressure and hit back with authority, their maul and Leigh Halfpenny.

For all the heartfelt wishes to see 'Les Jaunards' shed their reputation as a club of 'chokers,' as Leinster and Munster had to before them, the reality of professionalism means winning is best left to winners.

This game is changing faster than a Mayweather right hand counter.

The Toulon assembly line of players is hand-picked to harvest medals. It is either a retirement home or bulging financial reward for players who work at the elite end of the game.

In contrast, the Leinster model begins with an Academy hand-picked from schools and clubs players, who dream of a blue jersey and a life where they may get paid for their love of a game.

Outside of that, the province have had to break the bank to repatriate the man currently operating as the best out-half in the world, Jonathan Sexton, resign former Academy second row Mick Kearney and reactivate the career of Isa Nacewa, a remarkable man emerging out of the fog of a two-year retirement.

More revealingly, coach Matt O'Connor, working within a tight budget restraint, handed contracts to Clontarf All-Ireland League props Ian Hirst and Royce Burke-Flynn in anticipation of losing two entire front rows to the World Cup.

Toulon will employ the services of All Black Ma'a Nonu, Clermont's own Naipolioni Nalaga and Northampton Saints Samu Manoa and Salesi Ma'afu.

The playing field is about as one-sided as a hill.

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