Houles confident of keeping top talent at Toulouse

Toulouse head coach Sylvain Houles has conceded a number of his stars will inevitably attract Super League interest, but is confident he can keep them in France.

Olympique caught the eye with a dazzling display at Summer Bash as they boosted their top four hopes with a 40-28 win over London.

In particular, the performance of fullback Mark Kheirallah, voted as the Championship’s number one player last week, caught the eye, but he shared the spotlight with Johnathon Ford and Rhys Curran, who have been key performers for the club in their top four push.

Houles admitted that the trio, among others, have had opportunities to leave in the past, only to commit to the club.

With Super League clubs likely to circle some of Toulouse’s key performers ahead of 2019, Houles gave an optimistic outlook on their hopes of retaining their stars.

“Of course, it is a risk,” he said.

“It is a danger of what could happen. The thing that we’ve got is that they love it. They love living in Toulouse and being a part of the team. We give them such big roles and we need to make sure we bring Super League to them and they can help us with that.

“They just love the project, that they can be a part of history and build something. Killer (Kheirallah) and Jonno (Ford), we’ve been working with them for five years, Rhys (Curran) has been with us for three years. Step by step we’re building up and they’re part of it.

“At some stage if they’re questioning me if other clubs are calling they will ask me. But they create a life over there, we need to look after them really well and be a part of it. Last year they were contacted for double the money, but they still stayed.”

With Toulouse currently second in the Championship, there are increasing suggestions they could push for a place in Super League.

However, Houles admitted the club has many strides to take before being ready for the step up to the top flight.

“It’s probably a bit too quick for us,” he accepted.

“A big thing for us is building a strong base. Last year we won the Championship Shield, this year, we need to make the top four and play some Super League teams and see how it goes. I’m sure there would be some great things to learn.

“I’m not going to say we’ll be happy just to make the middle eight, but we’d have a good dig and see what we need to improve, especially off the field, that’s probably the big thing to put a good structure in place and improve our youngster development. We have some good kids there but we need to give them some good development.”