Toulon waits for the Nonu show to start

2016-01-28 07:21
Ma'a Nonu (AFP)

Toulon - Double World Cup winner Ma'a Nonu has not scored a try in eight matches for European Champions Toulon and, although the team are still winning, there is apprehension in the stands.

It has been a "very difficult" start in France, Nonu, who signed off for New Zealand with a dazzling 40 metre run for a try that helped seal the World Cup final against Australia in November, told AFP in an interview.

Toulon have won five European Cup games out of five but they have been closely fought. Toulon's demanding supporters have been left on edge by some of the performances by the dreadlocked Nonu and Australian import Quade Cooper who are both establishing themselves in a new country and new habits.

"It's not easy. It's the first time I've played in that competition," said the 33-year-old centre, renowned for his powerful runs.

"There's a lot of expectation here at Toulon. We're trying our best and I guess that's not enough here, but hopefully we can win some more games.

"It's a different sort of mentality here in France. There's lot of onus on the foreigners but we get over that.

"That's why I play rugby, because I enjoy the challenge. But sometimes I question myself why I enjoy this game, sometimes being over here because it's so frustrating at times.

"We won five games but I'm sure half are not happy and half are happy. I can't speak for the team, I can only speak for myself but I'm not happy with my performances, they're pretty average at the moment."

Nonu's Toulon record is not all black. He made the crucial pass that enabled Australian teammate Drew Mitchell to score a try for a 15-11 win over Wasps this month.

"Ma'a just took it to the line, I thought he was going to go over the top to Bryan Habana so I just ran a short line off him and he played me in," Mitchell said in a tribute at the time.

Nonu said he does not score many tries himself and stressed that all of the European games have been close.

Nonu has lost a few balls and according to coach Bernard Laporte has tried a few too many miss-passes -- looping the ball over or around a teammate to reach the next player in line. There have been groans in the crowd.

"I can't control what they think so hopefully in time I can play a bit of rugby," said Nonu as he took a break from training for Sunday's Top 14 game against Stade Francais.

"They have got to remember there are 15 players on the field you know. It is a team sport. They can't always pinpoint one."

"I play how I see. If I see space I am going to take the space," said Nonu, who is ill-at-ease in the spotlight but clearly enjoying his training.

Toulon's Australian assistant coach Steve Meehan said that the miss-pass is a good tactic and sometimes "the right choice."

Meehan says that Nonu has often had to change partners in the Toulon side which has not helped his integration.

"At the start it was difficult for him, a new country, new team, new players.

"But in the last three matches you can see he has been getting better. He has got his place in the team.

"The others have got to learn the rugby that Ma'a plays."

Coach Laporte said that Nonu does not need to get better.

"He is a great player. He has got to get integrated. I think he is the strong man in the middle.

"Everything he does is good, when he tackles, when he holds the line more. And he is a great guy."

Read more on:    toulon  |  ma'a nonu  |  rugby

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