Fri, Dec 19, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Wallabies coach unfazed by overseas player drain

AFP, SYDNEY

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is unfazed about a possible mass exodus of players after next year’s Rugby World Cup, following the departures of veterans James Horwill and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Lock James Horwill, Australia’s captain at the last World Cup, on Wednesday agreed a three-year contract with Harlequins as he prepares for his first spell in English rugby.

On the same day, French Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles announced they had agreed a two-year deal with winger Ashley-Cooper.

The two men, who will leave Australia after next year’s World Cup, have played more than 150 Tests between them and their decision to head overseas, ruling them out of Wallaby contention, is part of a growing trend.

The recent elite player drain has seen Kane Douglas go to Leinster in Ireland, Nick Cummins to West Red Sparks in Japan, Berrick Barnes to Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights and Matt Giteau to Toulon.

Israel Folau, Quade Cooper, Will Genia and Kurtley Beale are expected to be among other prime targets for cash-rich overseas clubs once the World Cup is over.

Cheika told reporters yesterday that he is “not at all” concerned about the threat of losing vital talent in 2016.

The Wallabies coach said it was up to him and the Australian Rugby Union to make playing for their country more appealing than chasing big bucks elsewhere.

“We want to make sure that our environments, both in Super Rugby and in the Australian team, are so good that players don’t want to leave, because they’re enjoying themselves and they’re getting what they want out of rugby,” he said. “That’s not just coaching, that’s the overall experience and the enjoyment that’s in the game.”

“Everyone’s in the same boat,” he added. “It’s on everywhere, but that’s the natural market and in any marketplace we’ve got to make ourselves an attractive option as well, and not just around money.”

Cheika said he had no issues with veterans such as Ashley-Cooper and Horwill heading to more lucrative pastures.

“I don’t think either of those guys are going because they are not happy with something,” he said. “Some players come to the time in their careers when this is the move that they want to make.”

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