Former Wallabies flank targets World Cup berth with Namibia
SPOTLIGHT: Richard Hardwick’s Super Rugby Pacific form is set to see him rewarded with a Rugby World Cup berth, only not with the Wallabies.
The Melbourne flank was a stand-out in their tight loss to competition heavyweights the Hurricanes last round.
As well as his work around the breakdown Hardwick scored two tries as the Rebels rallied back from 7-24 down at half-time before a six-point loss, earning him bragging rights over wing and teammate Monty Ioane.
The pair are set to cross paths in the group stage at the World Cup in France later this year, with Ioane representing Italy and Hardwick his country of birth, Namibia.
With two Wallabies caps in 2017, Hardwick said he was told last year by then coach Dave Rennie he was not part of his plans so he turned to Namibia, where he lived before his family relocated to Western Australia.
Despite Rennie making way for Eddie Jones, Hardwick, who earned his first cap for the southwest African nation late in 2022, has no regrets.
“I was talking to Rennie and they just wanted to go down a different direction, younger players and a different style of rugby that’s not ideally suited for me, which is fine,” Hardwick said.
“So I just took things in my own hands – there’s a few things in my life that I’d love to accomplish before retiring and I’m not getting any younger so the opportunity came up last year in November to go over and play for Namibia and potentially get a crack at a World Cup so I wasn’t going to wait around.”
Hardwick said his move to the rugby minnows meant a lot to his family and in particular, his father Michael, who had represented the nation at a number of sports, foremost cricket.
“I think I can do a lot of good in Namibian rugby, not only representing them, but in developing … bring my experience from Australian rugby and at an international level as well.
“It was also pretty special for my dad, he represented Namibia for cricket and golf and squash so that’s pretty special to have two generations who have played for the country.
“He gave up quite a lot to move us to Australia and give us the life that we have now and I’m very grateful for that so giving back for both my parents is pretty special.”
Hardwick and his Rebels will hunt their first win of the season on Friday at AAMI Park against the Waratahs.
Boasting a back-row that contains former Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper and new sensation Langi Gleeson, the Waratahs posted an impressive win over Fijian Drua last round.
Hardwick said confidence was building in Melbourne that they could match it with the best in the competition.
“They’ve got a dangerous bac -row and you can’t underestimate them – they’re going to put on big shots, they’re going to be a menace at the breakdown, they’re going to have big ball carriers.
“We have to stick together as a unit to try and nullify them and we’ve got a couple of plans around that but for the most part, it’s going to be a team effort, just to stay on top of them and frustrate them.”