Japanese clubs target Wallabies stars
TRANSFER TALK: The Wallabies and Brumbies could be set for a double-whammy of player departures following reports of interest in two of their key men from Japanese clubs.
The two players in question are experienced scrumhalf Nic White and promising flyhalf Noah Lolesio, both of whom are reported to be in the sights of teams from Japan’s League One competition.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, White has been offered a seven-figure sum by a Japanese team that is looking to acquire the 31-year-old ahead of next year’s campaign.
Should White take the reported offer, he would jeopardise his place in the Wallabies squad at next year’s World Cup in France following adjustments made by Rugby Australia [RA] to its eligibility rules for offshore-based players.
Wallabies boss Dave Rennie can now only pick three overseas-based players – who have played at least 30 tests and played domestically in Australia for a minimum of five years – in each squad he selects per tournament, series or tour.
As such, White would compete with the likes of Kintetsu Liners flyhalf Quade Cooper, Suntory Sungoliath midfielder Samu Kerevi and Panasonic Wild Knights wing Marika Koroibete for one of three allocated places in the Wallabies set-up.
Lured back to Australia from English Premiership club Exeter Chiefs by former Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika ahead of the 2019 World Cup, White has featured prominently for the Wallabies since his homecoming.
A veteran of 47 tests, White has partaken in 25 of the 30 matches the Wallabies have played since his return from England.
Of those 25 tests, he started in 19 matches and featured in every one of Australia’s games at the 2019 World Cup, and is currently part of the national team’s leadership group.
White has also been crucial in the recent success of the Brumbies, playing a key role in their 2020 Super Rugby AU title, as well as their run to last year’s Super Rugby AU final and their win over the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
Since returning to the Canberra-based franchise, White has formed a crucial halves partnership with Lolesio, who is also the subject of speculation about interest from Japanese clubs.
Fox Sports reports that Lolesio, the 22-year-old who has played 11 tests for the Wallabies since his breakout season two years ago, is weighing up an offer to ply his trade in Japan in a deal that is reportedly worth far more than what he earns in Australia.
Lolesio is part of a young nucleus of Wallabies players who are considered to be the future of Australian rugby, but he currently finds himself behind Cooper and James O’Connor in the national pecking order at flyhalf.
Cooper and O’Connor are the leading candidates to don the No 10 jersey for Australia at next year’s World Cup, and their participation in last year’s end-of-year tour at the expense of Lolesio’s inclusion is reflective of their standings in Rennie’s book.
Unlike White, Lolesio wouldn’t be eligible for Wallabies selection should he decide to move to Japan given he doesn’t meet the 30-test, five-year domestic service threshold required of foreign-based Australian players.
While the Wallabies have enough depth to adequately replace White or Lolesio should they leave for Japan, the Brumbies don’t have such luxury.
In players like Cooper, O’Connor, Matt To’omua, Tate McDermott and Jake Gordon, the Wallabies have other options available to them who could slot in and fill the void left by White and Lolesio appropriately.
The same, however, can’t be said of the Brumbies, who are also facing the loss of star fullback Tom Banks, who has reportedly been offered a two-year deal in Japan worth A$2.8 million.
Both White and Lolesio have been named to start by Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar for Sunday’s Super Round clash against the Highlanders in Melbourne, while Banks continues to recover from a facial fracture.