It was not clear today whether Leigh Halfpenny was back in the good books of the outspoken Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal, but he was certainly back in training. Less than a week after his future with the French and European champions was called into question by the man who pays his wages, the Wales full-back now seems on course to make a belated debut on the Côte d’Azur next month and prove his fitness ahead of the autumn internationals.
Boudjellal caused ructions when he said he might terminate the player’s contract if it turned out he had signed for the club knowing that a groin injury would sideline him. Halfpenny’s agent flew to France for emergency talks, while Rob Howley, the Wales attack coach, criticised the owner’s handling of the matter.
There were fun and games elsewhere in France as Philippe Saint-André, the national coach, named a radically changed senior squad for the forthcoming Tests against Australia, Argentina and Fiji. Two of his highest-profile players, the scrum-half Morgan Parra and the hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, were dumped, as was the centre Gaël Fickou, whose brilliant try ended England’s hopes of a Grand Slam last season.
“We are instilling competition here,” explained Saint-André, who went on to suggest that French flair would take a back seat to French ferocity as his struggling side builds towards next year’s World Cup in England.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks’ outside-half Aaron Cruden has been dropped after missing a team flight to Argentina following a night on the sauce. “I made a poor decision regarding the limits of my alcohol intake,” Cruden said.Reuse content