Former Dog Sonny Bill Williams has survived the cut at French outfit Toulon, after coach Tana Umaga was thrust from his coaching position to now on-field captain. Many felt former All Back Umaga would be sacked today, and as he was a key player in snaring SBW, some felt Williams’ position at the club could be weakened.
Now Umaga, 35, will hit the playing field again, just under 2 years after putting the cue in the rack.
Assisting with the coaching side of things, former France captain Philippe Saint-Andre will come on board as an advisor, or director as they call it in NRL circles.
Insiders felt the Frenchman Saint-Andre was simply replace Umaga as coach of Toulon.
Regardless of the coaching change, Sonny Bill Williams’ could still be in jeopardy.
As he was in the NRL, Sonny Bill Williams remains constantly injured. Having only played in 5 of Toulon’s regular season matches, locals and officials remain frustrated at the expensive star.
William is in the first year of a two-year, $3 million deal and club owner Mourad Boudjellal remains frustrated.
He has been quoted as saying: “Father Christmas is going to buy train and airline tickets for some players.”
“Umaga is a natural leader and the team has an enormous respect for him,” said Boudjellal, adding that Umaga had been training for two months
”(He) feels ready in his head … and will make his return when he’s ready.”
Saint-Andre’s duties would include player recruitment with millionaire Boudjellal expected to take a back seat on football matters next season and concentrate on the club’s economic development.
“I said after our defeat to Dax that I was totally responsible for the mistakes in recruitment and that I was searching for a mastermind,” Boudjellal said.
“I’ve found that mastermind: Philippe Saint-Andre.”
With the club facing a quick return to ProD2 after just one season in the elite Top 14, Boudjellal has also again opened his cheque book.
He has brought in South African outside-half Conrad Barnard from Super 14 side Cheetahs as well as Clermont’s France international scrum-half Pierre Mignoni while Saint-Andre will bring Sale’s French hooker Sebastien Bruno with him to the south of France.
Umaga guided Toulon into the top flight last year but the team are second from the bottom of the Top 14 table despite investing huge sums in high-profile players including Williams, Jerry Collins and Joe van Niekerk.
Saint-Andre, a former France international winger, led Sale to the English championship title in 2006 and the European Challenge Cup crown a year earlier.
He arrived at the English Premiership side in 2004, having previously performed an identical role with Gloucester and in France with Bourgoin.
Saint-Andre won 68 caps for France, 34 of them as captain, and is second in France’s all-time try-scorers list with 32, behind Serge Blanco (38).