Fresh from unveiling Simon Cron as their incoming coach, the Western Force are on the cusp of announcing Folau Fainga’a as their next big recruit.
The Wallabies’ first-choice hooker is set to leave the Brumbies and join the Force on a one-year deal. He might not be the only Wallabies regular to leave at season’s end either, with fullback Tom Banks garnering massive interest in Japan.
It’s a shrewd bit of business from Rugby Australia because they risked losing the rake, who had been offered a deal to join to French Top 14 club Lyon.
Had he gone overseas, it would have meant Australia’s three best hookers would be playing in France, with Brandon Paenga-Amosa joining Tolu Latu in the competition this season.
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Instead, the Force, who are the most active recruiters in Super Rugby so early in the season, are strengthening their depth in the front-row and his retention has him primed to go to his second World Cup.
He will join first-year skipper and Wallabies rookie Feleti Kaitu’u at the club, leaving Cron with a big decision to make over who starts in the No.2 jersey.
Dave Wessels made a mistake when he parachuted former Wallaby Adam Coleman into the role when the duo left the Force and joined the Rebels in 2018 and the cultural shift caused some unnecessary friction when the incumbent was relegated.
With the impending departure of Fainga’a, the Brumbies can afford to keep their rising stars in the hooker position.
They see capped Wallaby Connal McInerney as a reliable, seasoned pro and believe youngsters Lachlan Lonergan and Billy Pollard are two for the future.
Pollard particularly, who was courted by NRL masterminds Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett, is someone RA believes has a massive future in the game.
Meanwhile, the Brumbies risk losing Wallabies fullback Banks, too.
It’s understood Banks, who has been Dave Rennie’s first-choice fullback since taking over from Michael Cheika, has been offered a deal in the vicinity of $1 million to head to Japan.
It is a huge deal for a 27-year-old, who has been one of Australia’s best in Super Rugby for the past three years, but has yet to dominate, or even convince some pundits that he should wear the No.15 jersey for the Wallabies.
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Banks is part of a five-man race for the Wallabies jersey.
At the Reds, gun outside back Jordan Petaia is being used more at fullback while teammate Jock Campbell’s stocks keep rising. Evergreen Rebels utility Reece Hodge remains an option while Kurtley Beale’s return from France will see him press for the role too.
But given Banks was overlooked for the World Cup in 2019, the Wallabies international has a big decision to make.
If he stays in Australian rugby, the outside back will unlikely earn more than $400,000.
He can more than double that salary by heading overseas.
In other news, RA is exploring ways to fully contract its players of national interest.
The move is a breakaway from what it has done in the past, where a player’s salary has been split between the governing body and Super Rugby franchise.
Super Rugby’s general managers hope it will allow the franchises to retain more of their homegrown talent.