92-Test Wallaby set for shock French defection
Kurtley Beale is set to defect to French rugby after this year, ending his Super Rugby career but not necessarily his time in the Wallabies jersey.
Beale is tipped to sign with Top 14 club Racing Metro, along with Melbourne Rebels backrower Luke Jones, while fellow Rebels teammate Matt Philip will sign with Pau.
Having played 92 Tests for the Wallabies, Beale can still be recalled for Wallabies duties in 2021 under the 60-Test Giteau Law.
Beale began his Super Rugby career as a teenager in 2007, and just this week was given his first shot at captaincy - he'll lead the Waratahs against the Chiefs in Wollongong on Friday night.
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Jones returned from France to play with the Rebels last year in a bid to make the Rugby World Cup but was ultimately left out of Michael Cheika's squad for Japan, and will head back to the Top 14.
Philip's departure further depletes Australia's lock stocks. RA had hoped former Waratah Will Skelton would return after his English club Saracens was penalised for salary cap breaches but he is set to join French club La Rochelle.
DUAL INTERNATIONAL BACKS PONGA'S ABS SWITCH
Kalyn Ponga has the tools to crack the All Blacks' 2023 World Cup squad after just one season of Super Rugby, code-hopper Karmichael Hunt believes.
Himself a former Queensland State of Origin fullback who successfully transitioned to international rugby, Hunt described Ponga as a "one of a kind" footballer.
Ponga is reportedly weighing up a contract extension offer from NRL club Newcastle Knights that would allow him to switch to rugby in 2023 in a bid to play for his native New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup in France.
"Kalyn played at Churchie (Anglican Church Grammar, Brisbane) so he's got schoolboy experience, he's not just a running threat, he can play the ball as well," Hunt said.
"He wanted to transition to No.6 last year but they ended up pushing him back to fullback.
"His game, from a league perspective, he will likely transition from No.1 to No.6 and be a predominant ballplayer, which if you translate to rugby, if he's got the ability to play the ball as well as run, you can slot him at fullback with his running, kicking and ball-playing ability, but he can also play in your midfield as well."
Sir John Kirwan has been among those who've said one season will not be enough for Ponga to learn the finer points of rugby to crack the All Blacks, and while Hunt agreed it would be extremely difficult, the triple-code star is not going to write off the young gun.
"I don't like putting limits on people, they can surprise you," Hunt said.
"Kalyn's a remarkable talent and I don't want to put any limits on him, because from what I've seen from him in the few years he's been in football, he's one of a kind."
The opposite mooted switch of All Black Ardie Savea to the NRL is virtually no chance of happening.
Savea revealed recently he wanted to play league, but the financial reality will see him re-sign with NZRU and become one of the top three paid All Blacks alongside Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick.
NRL clubs would only be able to afford half of Savea's projected $1.2 million annual salary.
GITEAU LAW IGNORED AT RA AGM
Rumblings about changing the Giteau Law are growing stronger, however there will be no discussion about this at the Rugby Australia AGM on March 30.
That would be ludicrous given the move would devalue Super Rugby at the same time RA is trying to sell the competition on the open broadcast market.
However, some inside RA are convinced that the 60-Test, seven years of continual loyalty model needs to be tweaked to fend off foreign raiders and keep the Wallabies strong.
There's no doubt rugby will head down football's path in the next decade, with the best southern hemisphere stars playing in the rich north and returning for international duty.
For the near future, a smart fix would be to change the Giteau Law to no minimum Tests, but around six years of continual loyalty to Super Rugby.
This would ensure that foreign clubs think twice about poaching players in their prime, who could be called back for Wallabies duty at any time under World Rugby's regulation 9 rule.