Maxime Mermoz joined with Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon to win titles

Maxime MermozAfter four years at Perpignan, centre Maxime Mermoz says he switched to the other side of the Mediterranean coast to join Toulon with one thing in mind – winning trophies.
Despite claiming the Top 14 title in 2009, Perpignan have struggled ever since and a change of scenery was necessary for Mermoz to pursue his ambitions of stocking his trophy cabinet.
He said: “Perpignan and Toulon are at different stages in their cycle. Perpignan are trying to rebuild a team to enjoy the success we had in 2009 while Toulon are nearing their peak and should be winning titles sooner rather than later.
“I wanted to be part of something new and have the opportunity to play at the highest level possible to challenge for trophies year in year out.
“Everyone plays to win titles but not everyone has the chance to do so.”
Highly-rated when he was in the Toulouse academy, Mermoz was struggling to get some game time in the first team because of the presence of France great Yannick Jauzion in the No.12 jersey.
Since then, the 27-year-old has established himself as one of the best inside centres in the game but he is now ready to test himself again in arguably the best club squad in world rugby alongside Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau.
He added: “Being in that very talented squad will make me improve as I will have to work my hardest to get a spot in the starting XV, which maybe wasn’t the case at Perpignan.
“Playing alongside Jonny and Matt is going great so far. Apart from being very good players, they communicate with me a lot. We speak in French and English which makes us laugh so it’s a great way to break the ice and have fun.
“But everyone is very focussed and it’s easy to see that all the guys are keen to put the disappointment of last year’s two lost finals behind and get a trophy this year.”
However, the French international is aware that despite being favourites on paper, Toulon will have to manage their squad well during a long and tough season if they want to succeed where they have failed in the last three years.
He said: “Toulouse and Clermont showed last year what you must have to compete. The players might change every game but the performance remains consistent and I’m sure we will be able to do the same this year.
“A lot of teams are going to be ready so it will be about taking the season phase by phase.”
Mermoz was back in Perpignan last week for round one of the Top 14 and came away with a 21-15 victory thanks to six penalties and a drop goal from Wilkinson. James Hook kicked all the Perpignan points.
“My return was a bit special,” said Mermoz. “I spent four amazing years there and a part of me is still in this city.”
Former Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom, 29, met with Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal last Thursday to discuss a short-term deal. The 75-cap flanker recently had his contract with Japanese club Kobe Steelers terminated after failing to satisfy their requirements in medical tests.
NICOLAS VERDIER

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