1908 – 1948: The early years
The Rugby Club Toulonnais was established in 1908. Its first recruits were players from the Stade Varois, the Sélection Maritime and from the Sporting Club Télégraphique teams. Louis Gorlier became the first Club President and Marius Raymond the first General Secretary. In 1920, thanks to the generosity of Félix Mayol, the Rugby Club Toulonnais acquired its very own stadium.
The Toulon team was on a winning streak during the 1928-1929 season and reached the final of the French Championships against Quillan.
In 1931, the Rugby Club Toulonnais entered the history books and won its first Bouclier de Brennus by defeating Lyon Olympique Universitaire.
A few years later, the Rouge & Noir were invited to the Yves Manoir Challenge and in the same year, shared the title following a draw with Toulouse which marked the beginning of a long rivalry between the two teams.
Whilst accustomed to the top of the league table, the RCT, nevertheless, had difficulty in winning titles: they lost the championship semi-final against Aviron Bayonnais in 1934, against Biarritz in 1939, then against Lourdes in 1946. The team played yet another French Championship final in 1948 but was beaten once again by Lourdes.
1949 – 1985: Inconsistent results
The Var team’s journey was brought to a standstill for a few years. They were unable to reach the last sixteen until 1967.
During the 1967-1968 season, the Rouge & Noir were back on form once again and reached the final but unfortunately lost the match to Lourdes. In 1971, the RCT played yet another final against A.S.Bézier, then a semi-final in 1972. Unfortunately, the following seasons were less successful.
1985 – 1995 : The re-conquest
During the offseason, André handed over the role of Trainer to Daniel Herrero; the Rouge & Noir were playing excellent rugby and once again made it to the final stages of the French Championship in 1985 and 1986.
On 2nd May 1987, 56 years after its first Bouclier de Brennus, the Rugby Club Toulonnais became the French Champions, with a win over the Racing Club de France.
On its road to success, the Var club became regular guests of the playoffs during the following years, but were unable to win the Bouclier again. However, at the end of the 1992 season, much to everyone’s surprise, they won the Championship with a team of « minots ». The RCT then lost two championship finals to Castre Olympique in 1993 and 1995.
Relegation to the second division
The club’s journey to success was derailed by the discovery of a deficit of nearly 10 million francs. In 2000, the National Rugby League relegated the team to the second division (ProD2). During the following season, the warriors from the ‘ Rade’ almost immediately managed to rise back up to the Top 14 but were beaten in the final by Montauban. The team had consistently disappointing seasons afterwards until the 2004-2005 season during which the Var club triumphed and rejoined the rugby elite following a final victory against Tarbes. Despite all that, Toulon’s courage was not enough, the team was not able to maintain this level of performance and quickly rejoined the second division.
The glorious years
During the 2006-2007 season, two businessmen from Toulon, Mourad Boudjellal and Stéphane Lelièvre, invested in the company with a goal of reaching the Top 14 once again. An ambitious recruitment plan was then implemented, which was unheard of for a club in the ProD2. As a result, Gonzalo Quesada, Rob Henderson, Jean-Jacques Crenca, Tana Umaga, a star of the rugby world, George Gregan, Andrew Mehrtens, Victor Matfield and many other international players signed for the Rouge & Noir.
The star-studded team failed to reach the Top 14 in 2007 but the following season was crowned French Champions of the ProD2 for the second time in its history.
The RCT team was now back on top and both the team and the president aimed to firmly re-establish its status in French rugby and make its mark on the championship.
The Rouge & Noir team looked like an international Dream Team as even more spectacular recruits joined the RCT: Sonny Bill Williams and Jerry Collins in 2008, followed by Phillipe Saint-André, Pierre Mignoni, Laurent Emmanuelli, English rugby star Jonny Wilkinson and Argentineans Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Felipe Contepomi in 2009.
Following a remarkable 2009 – 2010 season, the Toulon team then lost the semi-final of the Top 14 against the future French Champions, ASM Clermont Auvergne. With the arrival of George Smith, Paul Sackey and Carl Hayman the following season, the Var team got through to the quarter final of the Heineken Cup but its season in the Top 14 was fairly disappointing.
When it was announced the Phillipe Saint-André was leaving the RCT to become the French Team coach in the 2011 – 2012 season, Bernard Laporte was appointed to take control of the RCT. In that year, the RCT team was unable to win any titles, with two finals lost in the European Challenge Cup and in the Top 14 respectively.
In 2013, strengthened by the arrival of international players such as Frédéric Michalak and Chris Masoe, Toulon won the H Cup for the first time in the club’s history but lost out to a surprising Castres team in the French Championship.
A four-star recruitment plan was implemented in the summer of 2013 in the aim of winning the much-desired Bouclier and saw the arrival of Bryan Habana, Ali Williams, Martin Castrogiovanni and Drew Mitchell. The Rouge & Noir Dream Team became legendary by winning a historical double following its victories in the H Cup and Top 14.
Following the departure of the English genius, Jonny Wilkinson, the RCT continued its journey to the top of the rugby world by becoming the European Champions for the third consecutive time, a feat which has never before been achieved in the history of rugby…