Rugby Championship
Toulon owner ignites club v country row
ESPN Staff
September 17, 2014
Lobbe may have to return to France before Argentina face the All Blacks © Getty Images

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has launched a club v country row after he said he wanted three internationals to return home to play in the Top 14 this weekend even though they are resting between matches in the Rugby Championship.

Boudjellal is insisting Pumas star Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe and Springboks Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha return to play Brive at the weekend. He has threatened to not pay his stars if they refuse to return and has also issued an ultimatum, even threatening court action in France.

All three stars are with their respective squads preparing for the matches next weekend but Boudjellal believes he has rights to his players between games and is prepared to take them to court.

"There is something that is quite simple - they defend the colours of their country and are paid rather comfortably by Toulon," Boudjellal told French media. "The IRB decided the rules. That's fine but I'm not here to fund South African and Argentine rugby and I will not.

"These players will return as we need them. If they do not and we receive no fee, they will not be paid by us because they will not be present in Toulon. We'll see if the rules of the IRB prevail or if it is the rules of the Labour Code for French private enterprise. In any case, it is an aberration.

"We have reached a stage where we have to ask the opinion of the French law. Therefore, we will ask the French judges whether a foreign federation has the right to take my employees and force me to pay them. It's just unthinkable we have players who are paid very well by us but cannot play them. Moreover, I have to pay the players replacing them. This is a double sanction."

Boudjellal has also taken aim at Leigh Halfpenny and has threatened to tear up Halfpenny's contract after the Wales and British & Irish Lions star struggled to gain match fitness and is suspected of carrying the injuring when he signed for Toulon in the offseason.

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