Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal is confident that Castres Olympique scrumhalf Rory Kockott will be with the club next season, while reports in France suggest he has already secured the services of Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny.
Kockott was thought to have agreed a deal to move to the Stade Felix Mayol at the end of the current campaign as far back as November, but local press then suggested that the South African scrumhalf would turn his back on any such agreement and instead stay put.
The 2012 Top 14 Player of the Year is yet to sign a new deal with Castres, though, and Boudjellal insists Kockott has given him assurances he will be plying his trade for the reigning European Cup holders from July onwards.
“He confirmed to me via telephone that he would come here next year. We want to believe him,” said Boudjellal.
Halfpenny, who was named the Player of the Series for the British & Irish Lions after picking up a similar title in the Six Nations, has long been linked with a move to France, with Toulon and the club they beat in last year’s European Cup Final, ASM Clermont Auvergne, thought to be leading the race for his signature.
Toulon now appear to have won that battle after daily newspaper La Provence reported that the 24-year-old had met Boudjellal in London on more than one occasion and has been persuaded to join the likes of Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell in Toulon’s star-studded backline.
No official confirmation has come from Toulon or Halfpenny’s current club, Cardiff Blues, however, although an update is expected in the near future.
As well as looking set to bring in two of the world’s best goal kickers in Halfpenny and Kockott, Boudjellal insists they are almost certain to hang on to Argentine back row Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe; could yet keep Frédéric Michalak; and are hopeful of persuading head coach Bernard Laporte to extend his current contract. Laporte is undecided on his future after 2015 and has been linked with the Argentinean national job, while Lobbe is out of contract in the summer and Michalak had been publicly criticised earlier in the season.
“There is a 90 percent chance that Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe will stay with us next season,” added Boudjellal.
“I want to keep Freddie Michalak in our team. I will make a new proposition to him. But if he gets offers from elsewhere that we cannot follow, we will not go to war to keep him.
“I would like to know what Bernard really wants. Does he really want to finish with us? As of yet, I haven’t offered him an extension of his contract, but we are going to talk about it face to face.
“If he confirms he wants to stop, I will respect his choice. Bernard is a very determined person, but you never know. He works well and I know he cares a lot about our team and our club. On an emotional level, I think we still can change his mind.”