The Rugby Groud Guide

Toulon - The Basics

 

 

City: Toulon

Country  : France

Club: Rugby Club Toulonnais

 

Founded: 1908

Ground Opened: 1920

Stadium Name: Stade Felix Mayol

Stadium Address 53 Rue Melpomene

                                83000

                                Toulon

                Telephone          (33) 8 92 68 06 80

                Capacity               14,700

 

 

Club Website:

www.rctoulon.com

 

 

Home colours: Red and Black

Away Colours: Black

League (2015/16): Top 14

For Fixtures 2015/16 go to...

www.rctoulon.com

 

 

 

Who Plays There

 

Rugby Club Toulonnais was founded on June 3, 1908 as a merger of Etoile Sportive Varoise and members of the Stade Varois, a club based in nearby La Seyne-sur-Mer. It took the club 23 years to reach the top of French rugby, when they won the 1931 championship against Lyon Olympique Universitaire 6-3.

Toulon remained one of the top French clubs, but they lost four consecutive finals scattered over 35 years. (1948, 1968,1971 and 1985)  But the Red and Black had only to wait until 1987 to finally lay their hands on the Bouclier de Brennus again, defeating Racing at the Parc des Princes. The third title came in 1992, against Biarrirz Olympique,  in Serge Blanco’s last match.

Toulon then hit heavy financial trouble, forcing the Ligne Nationale de Rugby to demote them to the second division in July 2000.

Toulon were Pro D2 champions in 2005, but after finishing 14th in the 2005/06 season were relegated, despite averaging gates over 12,000.  The club made a strong run at promotion in the 2006/07 season, and won the following season’s Pro D2 crown with two rounds to spare. They struggled to avoid relegation for much of the 2008/09 season, but a late-season surge brought them to ninth place and safety. Their 2009/10 season was more successful, with a second place regular-season finish and a semi-final place domestically, and a runner-up finish in the European Challenge Cup.

A new President, Mourad Boudjellal, a born-and-bred Toulonnais, who made his fortune in the comic strip business, promised to build a huge team. He said:” I invented the Top 15, with a team that could be competitive in the Top 14”  He signed high-profile veteran players, including Australia captain  George Gregan ( reportedly paid 400,000 euros out of Boudjellal’s pocket), All Blacks’ all-time leading scorer Andrew Mehrtens, and England’s Jonny Wilkinson., who would be named the top fly-half of the year in France by Midi Olympique magazine.

 

Toulon Today

Toulon have become renowned as the big spenders of European rugby, stockpiling talent from all over the world, with the South African wing Bryan Habana the latest leading international to join them.

But from 1995 until 2001 the city was a stronghold for the right-wing Front National, and the club was struggling.  Current owner Mourad Boudjellal is the son of Algerians, and immigrants had suffered under their rule. The rise of the rugby club under his ownership has not only taken them back a generation-Toulon won the last of three league titles in 1992-but has helped rejuvenate the city which, although being on the Cote d’Azur, does not attract tourists like Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez.

Current team Manager Tom Whitford , who joined the club from Perpignan, having moved to France in 1999, after Richmond went under, claims Toulon “are an old-fashioned French club.” “Everyone knows about the players we have attracted from all over the world....but what is not often mentioned is that we have a thriving academy full of local young players...We are the fifth-biggest spenders in the Top 14 after Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne and the two Paris clubs....we are self-funded: we only spend what we earn through television money, sponsorship and match-days.

Mourad’s investment was in the early years when he brought in the likes of Umaga, George Gregan and Victor Maitfield to get the club back into the Top 14;it now pays for itself.”

 

The Fans

The Top 14 is the heartbeat of French rugby. Clubs would rather have the Bouclier de Brennus, the shield the league champions receive, than the H cup, as the Heineken Cup is called in France, because of a ban on the advertising of alcohol.

“If our supporters were given a choice”, according to Whitford,” they would go for the Top 14 because it would mean getting one over on the other clubs . We have not won it for 21 years and it is a competition rich in history and meaning. The H Cup is new to us; it is only the second season we have played in it, but Europe helps raise the profile of Toulom, giving the club and the region a wider exposure.

Before plying at Stade Felix Mayo; in the 2012/13 quarter final Richard Cockerill, Leicester’s director of rugby, claimed that his team had played at bigger and better venues and had nothing to be afraid of there.

The capacity may be just under 15,000, but the noise the fans generate can make it seem like two or three times bigger. Rugby is a passion here and Toulon are the only big club in the area: the nearest, Montpellier, is more than two hours away. It is a working class city and there is a close connection with the supporters.

 

The atmosphere is famous for a specific chant called Pilou Pilou, created at the end of the 1940’s by a club player, Marcel Bodero, which describes the Toulon players as terrible primitive warriors coming down from the mountain towards the sea.

A cheerleader leads the chants and asks the fans to answer and repeat the words.

It generally comes up when players get on the pitch, then early in the game, and also when the teams forwards, the clubs historical forte, start to dominate.

 

 

 

They love their rugby in Toulon. The town itself, with 160,000 inhabitants- or, if you count the surrounding  metropolitan sprawl, more like half a million- is centred around the port. Napoleon Bonaparte first made a name for himself here as a young officer by playing a decisive role in lifting the siege laid by the Royal Navy in 1793, and today the French Mediterranean Fleet is head-quartered on the rade.

The stadium is right in the heart of the town, on a site that was a disused velodrome until 1920, when the popular French singer Felix Mayol bought it and donated the ground to the club.

 

The Stadium

 

The Stade Mayol was inaugurated in 1920. It is named after Felix Mayol, a very popular concert hall singer from Toulon. Shortly after World War 1 he purchased what would become the stadium site and donated it to the club.

The story goes that on the day of his arrival in Paris, May 1, 1895, just before his first concert, Felix Mayol was met at the station by a female friend. She gave him some lily-of-the –valley, a flower people in France traditionally exchange on May 1. He pinned it on his lapel, the concert was a great success, and Mayol, who was very superstitious, made lilly-of-the-valley his personal emblem. It was taken up by the rugby club in 1921.

Although Toulon play their home games at the Stade Mayol, they have begun to take high-profile matches to the 60,000 seat Stade Velodrome in Marseilles, playing one match there in 2008/09 and two in 2009/10.

 

 

 

Toulon Today

 

Toulon have become renowned as the big spenders of European rugby, stockpiling talent from all over the world, with the South African wing Bryan Habana the latest leading international to join them.

But from 1995 until 2001 the city was a stronghold for the right-wing Front National, and the club was struggling.  Current owner Mourad Boudjellal is the son of Algerians, and immigrants had suffered under their rule. The rise of the rugby club under his ownership has not only taken them back a generation-Toulon won the last of three league titles in 1992-but has helped rejuvenate the city whic, although being on the Cote d’Azur, does not attract tourists like Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez.

Current team Manager Tom Whitford , who joined the club from Perpignan, having moved to France in 1999, after Richmond went under, claims Toulon “are an old-fashioned French club.” “Everyone knows about the players we have attracted from all over the world....but what is not often mentioned is that we have a thriving academy full of local young players...We are the fifth-biggest spenders in the Top 14 after Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne and the two Paris clubs....we are self-funded: we only spend what we earn through television money, sponsorship and match-days.

Mourad’s investment was in the early years when he brought in the likes of Umaga, George Gregan and Victor Maitfield to get the club back into the Top 14;it now pays for itself.”

 

 

 

Updated July 2015

 

 

Copyright Miles & Miles Publishing 2015

 

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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