Attacks on All Blacks great Julian Savea keep coming
TOULON owner Mourad Boudjellal has launched a second stinging attack on former All Blacks winger Julian Savea after making outrageous comments that the New Zealander "wasn't welcome" at the French club anymore.
The latest criticism includes Savea's decision to attend his brother Ardie's wedding in Fiji and questions the winger's fitness, attitude and "very demanding" behaviour regarding his salary and contract.
On Monday, Boudjellal made some explosive comments about Savea following the side's 19-10 Top 14 loss to Agen last week.
"I'm going to ask for a DNA test. They must have swapped him on the plane (when he joined from the Hurricanes last year). If I were him I would apologise and go back to my home country," Mourad Boudjellal told French radio RMC.
"I've told him that he was free to go and wasn't welcome at Toulon anymore."
Boudjellal backed up those comments on Wednesday (AEST) in an interview with Le Parisien.
"I find his behaviour unacceptable. I went through the 2015 World Cup and I always wonder if it's the same player, the same man," Boudjellal said.
"What I do not admit is that we pay him dearly. The negotiations have been very difficult, he has been very demanding since he has been here.
"I cannot think it's normal for a player paid more than one million euros per year to go on holiday to Fiji for a month in December … he just had to attend his brother's wedding, not take long leave," he added.
Boudjellal said he had spoken to Savea since criticising him.
"Oh yes. He is very nice, polite. They are very strong, with his wife, to complain about social networks," Boudjellal said.
"When he was in Fiji, he did not look unhappy. He tweeted that he was going to train hard. He will not disappoint.
"He has a little more than a year left of his contract - it will be very long for him. You think he gave a little of his salary to the young Simon Moretti, who is 18, earns 500 euros a month and defended the club while he went on vacation? No."
Savea responded to the initial damning criticism with a post on Twitter.
Savea's brother and fellow All Black, Ardie, retweeted the post in support.
Ardie also hailed his support for a tweet made by former Wallabies star Drew Mitchell, who called out Boudjellal's comments.
"F------ amen," responded Ardie.
Earlier this week, Savea's wife, Fatima, hit back at Toulon fans following vile comments.
Supporters took to social media with abusive comments directed at Savea, labelling him a "fat man" with breasts bigger than his wife's and saying they wished his mother got cancer.
Fatima responded, saying she was "absolutely disgusted by this s---" on Twitter.
"Take a minute to think about how your words can affect someone's life and their mental health," she tweeted.
"And people wonder why mental health in rugby had become a big problem. Take a minute to be considerate of people's feelings instead of bashing them behind a keyboard or phone screen.
"With rugby you are only as good as your team is. It's not an individual sport, it's a team sport and sometimes you can be let down by your team.
"But that shouldn't give anyone the right to ridicule a player and their livelihood, because no one knows what these players go through on a daily basis and the struggles they face."
Boudjellal has a history of making controversial statements.
In 2017 he praised Ali Williams' negotiation skills after he was caught buying cocaine in Paris, and last year he defended Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud's use of a homophobic slur in a match because it had "entered common language".
The 28-year-old Savea, who scored 46 tries in 54 tests for the All Blacks, signed a four-year deal with New Zealand Rugby in May 2015 that made him one of the highest paid players in New Zealand history, earning an estimated $800,000 a year.
However, he was released from that deal last year following the Super Rugby season and after agreeing to a two-year deal with Toulon.
Savea has scored just one try in 10 matches since joining the club. Toulon sit 11th on the table with six wins from their opening 16 games.
Savea's former Hurricanes teammate Nehe Milner-Skudder looks set to replace him at Toulon next season. He has signed a three-year deal.
Boudjellal told RMC Sport: "Some players are average because they want to leave and others because they have a cheque to take, and they cannot find a better cheque elsewhere. Many will be released.
"A one-year contract, he can do what he wants. It can be long for the club a year but especially very long for the player … for me, he is released."
This article first appeared on the NZ Herald and was reproduced with permission