Wallabies and Western Force no.8 Ben McCalman during the Rugby World Cup last year. He headed off to Japan just four days after the Final. Image via Wallabies Facebook.
The Roar: Wallabies and Western Force no.8 Ben McCalman has absolutely no regrets about spending his off-season playing in Japan, and said this week he’d have no hesitation recommending the flexible contract option to teammates contemplating the option.
After playing with Top League champions Panasonic over the summer, McCalman is refreshed and ready to make his Super Rugby return this weekend, named on the Force’s bench to take on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
“Mate, I loved it,” he told me from Perth this week, of his experience in Japan. “Certainly a bit of a culture shock, and the language barrier’s interesting at times, but it was a very enjoyable style of rugby the boys played…”
There’s been plenty to like in the NRC this season, but there’s still much room for improvement. Image: QRU/Sportography
The Roar: Another NRC season has been run and won, and with it the Brisbane City juggernaut rolls on. But what of the rest of the competition, and indeed, the competition itself?
In 2015 I was lucky enough to see eight NRC games in person, including the final, and watched all but a few of all other games on the Fox Sports live streams or broadcasts, as well as the weekly coverage for The Roar and directly for www.BuildcorpNRC.com.au.
It was time for a proper recap of the NRC, to identify what was good, what wasn’t so good, and what needs urgent attention…
Kane Douglas on the charge for the Wallabies, back in 2012. Image: ABC Grandstand
The Roar: Like many of you, I choked on my cornflakes at the news earlier this week that plans were afoot to wedge Kane Douglas back into the Wallabies setup ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Douglas, you’ll remember, left Australia last season for a three-year deal with leading Irish club Leinster. Much was written about it at the time, including suggestions that after a very strong championship season with the Waratahs, “not enough was done” to keep Douglas in Australian rugby.
In April this year, the ARU implemented its’ eligibility policy, whereby overseas-based players with more than 60 Tests under their belt and who had played at least seven seasons of professional rugby in Australia would now be eligible for Wallabies selection.
However, Kane Douglas, right at this point in time, does not meet that eligibility. He has played just 14 Tests, and at 26 years of age, falls short of the seven year criterion, too, after debuting for the Waratahs in 2010.
“…players such as Nick Phipps (pictured), Liam Gill, Matt Toomua and Israel Folau, who don’t tick either of the ’60+7′ boxes, may now be subject to ever-more lucrative offers to head overseas.” Image via Wallabies Facebook
ESPNscrum.com: Much has been written of the Australian Rugby Union’s recent policy shift on selecting overseas-based players, and not surprisingly, it was quickly dubbed “Giteau’s Law”, for the highly-likely Test rebirth of the 92-Test Wallaby and reigning French Top 14 Player of the Year, Matt Giteau.
The qualification requirement of 60 Tests and seven years’ service is not going to apply to every Australian player going overseas, and this is one of the things I like about the policy shift the most. It shouldn’t be a catch-all; representing the country from outside Australia should be even harder than from within.
And one of the flow-on effects of the new policy is that marquee Australian players will, from 2016, be less attractive to overseas-based clubs than they were before, as I discovered speaking with former Brumbies and now Gloucester coach, Laurie Fisher, recently..