Toulon are not evil

Date published: September 16 2014

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The European champions are not the devil, as many have been quick to portray them following the news of Leigh Halfpenny's injury woe.

The European champions are not the devil, as many have been quick to portray them following the news of Leigh Halfpenny's injury woe.

Mourad Boudjellal stated on Tuesday that Toulon had not ruled out cancelling the Wales star's contract, if it emerged that he'd known about his ongoing groin problem before signing for the club.

The pitchforks were ready. Toulon's rise to the top has been propelled by their high spending – to the deep-rooted envy of others.

It's no surprise to see the masses ready to take a pop at Toulon over a news story that can be manipulated and twisted into the club throwing an injured player out onto the streets. That's a lie.

Furthermore, portraying Toulon and Mourad Boudjellal as some Disney villain holding Halfpenny against his will in the 'hellish' Côte d'Azur (yeah, right) is ridiculous spin.

The millionaire owner is prone to bizarre, controversial outbursts – take his thoughts on international duty – but this time it's not impossible to see his point of view.

There's plenty to consider. If Halfpenny truly did know about the severity of his groin injury before signing, then why hide it?

Sure, Toulon will have offered him a large financial sum, but that's nothing that he couldn't earn at some future stage in his career when fully healthy. Was it really worth further aggravating his injury by faking it? Surely not.

Then there's the debate over how Toulon's medical staff failed to discover the injury when assessing Halfpenny before he signed his contract.

Professional rugby is still developing and medicals are far from the lavish parade we see in football, but nevertheless, for a goalkicker to get through a medical with Europe's top club carrying a groin injury, but show no signs of it, either makes Halfpenny a brilliant actor or Toulon's medical staff incompetent. If, again, there's any truth to it.

Boudjellal's frustration is blatant. Halfpenny was signed to be the points machine that Toulon have lost with Jonny Wilkinson now retired.

Toulon's kickers – Frédéric Michalak, Delon Armitage, James O'Connor and Éric Escande – combined to miss 20 points worth of kicks last Saturday against Stade Français in a 28-24 defeat.

When Boudjellal says “we need a world-class goalkicker”, you're inclined to agree.

Even despite his recent injuries – he had arm surgery after a spectacular tackle of Luther Burrell in the Six Nations – Halfpenny remains one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

His situation with Toulon is not about launching a melodramatic (if not slightly tongue-in-cheek) campaign to bring him back to Wales, but to find out the truth and to find the best way to get him back on the field.

Toulon's decision to terminate Halfpenny's contract would be clinical. Business. But not grossly immoral if he hadn't disclosed his condition, nor are they the 'enemy'.

Letting Halfpenny go only for him to potentially hurt them in the future makes little sense either.

The greater concern surely is that at the age of 25 and regarded as one of the game's best kickers, Halfpenny has a groin issue that could trouble him if not properly treated.

This saga will run, but the slinging of mud is childish. What would be best for everybody is for Halfpenny to recover and guide Toulon to more silverware – but it might not be so simple.

by Ben Coles

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