Force stars on Wallabies radar
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Western Force players could go from Australian rugby outcasts to Wallabies heroes within a year.
Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson is hopeful details of a refined Super Rugby competition featuring the Perth-based franchise – and possibly Japan’s Sunwolves – will be finalised “very, very shortly”.
And he said Force players would enter calculations once competition resumes and Wallabies spots are back on the line.
“Anyone who fits that criteria and playing well … they’re available for selection,” Johnson said.
“You play well, you put your hand up for selection … it’s a clean sheet.”
That means the likes of former Super Rugby journeyman Chris Alcock, Andrew Ready and Force captain Ian Prior would all suddenly have the eye of new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
It would be a dramatic shift for the Force – booted from Super Rugby in 2017 – given they intended to feature in the Asia-Pacific Global Rapid Rugby this year.
July’s Tests against Ireland and Fiji have been shelved but Johnson is optimistically planning for a Bledisloe Cup series later this year.
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All four Australian Super Rugby franchises have returned to training, with a domestic league flagged for a July 4 kick-off.
RA is keen to involve both the Force and the Sunwolves, with the Japan-based side due to exit Super Rugby after this season.
Global Rapid Rugby boss Mark Evans stressed last week that no formal invitation from RA had been received to return to Super Rugby.
“We’re getting close, dealing the right way and I’m confident we’ll get some resolution in the next week or so, so we can get on with formulating a plan for the competition,” Johnson said.
“Hopefully very, very shortly we can announce something.”
Rennie, still contracted with Scottish club Glasgow Warriors, is yet to arrive in Australia but has been in regular discussion with his new national coaching panel.
Johnson said he was unfazed by RA’s boardroom scuffles and financial plight that contributed to the demise of chief executive Raelene Castle, who was central in luring New Zealander Rennie into the job.
“That’s my job, his job is to worry about rugby,” Johnson said of the off-field dramas.
“What this time’s given us is time for coaches to have conversations about rugby.
“It’s given us a good positive runway into getting comfortable with each other and a clear direction.”