Australia’s leading players are being actively targeted by Top 14 clubs with reports that the scale of the exodus will only become clear after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
French newspaper Midi Olympique claimed that leading Wallabies were being approached with a raft of players – those named include almost every regular in the national side – being sounded out. At present there are 17 Australians playing in the Top 14 but this is likely to increase significantly.
The ARU, which has financial problems, is aware of the situation but seemingly powerless to act, although the report says it is understandably concerned. Recent offers of extended contracts to leading players were, in many cases, not taken up, with players aware they can earn substantially more playing in Europe, especially in light of cuts made to central contracts by the Australian board.
Some players have already approached the ARU and asked that the policy of only selecting home-based players be relaxed, with a proposal that a system of sabbaticals be introduced, allowing players to go abroad while remaining eligible for national selection.
At present, Bill Pulver, the ARU chief executive, has rejected the idea, but he may well be forced to rethink that approach if his main assets start moving overseas.