French target: Wallabies player Rory Arnold is in the sights of a host of French teams. Photo: Bradley KanarisThe ACT Brumbies hope the lure of Wallabies gold will help them beat the attraction of big-money offers from Europe as they continue the fight to keep their stars in Australian rugby.
The Brumbies have ramped up negotiations in recent weeks with a host of players who have been targeted by rich clubs in France, including Rory Arnold and Tevita Kuridrani.
Arnold and Kuridrani lead the list of key Wallabies being wooed, but it is believed towering second-rower Arnold is close to turning his back on French cash to stay in the capital.
Arnold, the tallest player in Australian rugby history, has played just 29 games for the Brumbies and nine Tests for the Wallabies after breaking into Super Rugby last year.
His size and lineout prowess launched him on to the radar of French glamour club Toulon and officials were prepared to offer him a massive deal to join Matt Giteau in Europe.
But the Brumbies and the ARU have been working to table a rival offer and it’s believed Arnold is keen to cement his place in Australian rugby and chase a World Cup berth in 2019.
Arnold and Kuridrani played on the Wallabies’ spring tour of Europe and won’t return to Brumbies training until the start of January.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will also return at the start of next year to begin his final season as the club’s leader before he joins the Wallabies in a full-time assistant role.
The new-look Brumbies roster will train until the middle of next week before breaking for Christmas and then returning to lift the tempo for the Super Rugby campaign.
Winger Henry Speight was a surprise inclusion at Brumbies training on Thursday, ditching his off-season holiday plans to do fitness work with the rest of the squad.
Speight was in Europe with the Wallabies and is on leave from rugby duties until January, but opted to join the young Brumbies for a hit-out in wet conditions.
Speight missed the majority of the Super Rugby campaign this year after chasing an Olympic Games dream with the Australian sevens team.
“So it’s basically like having a new player around and he’s a great person to have at the club,” said interim Brumbies coach Dan McKellar.
“Everyone’s excited to have him and he doesn’t have to be at training at this time of year. But he loves the Brumbies and loves getting in to help the new players.”
The Brumbies will finish training on Tuesday and return on January 5. They will likely have to adjust to a new World Rugby law implementation when they come back as officials crack down on high tackles.
McKellar says players will have to find a way to adapt to new categories introduced from January 3, with differing punishments for “reckless” and “accidental” high tackles as concerns about concussion grow.
A reckless high tackle will be punished with an automatic yellow card while accidental will be punished with a penalty. McKellar called for a common sense approach to be adopted.
“When you aim a bit higher in the tackle you have to be careful you don’t slip up to the head, you’d like to think there’s some common sense involved,” McKellar said.
“We support any moves to protect guys not attacking a player’s head and we think that’s a good thing.
“But I’m sure there will be common sense and you can’t have yellow cards being handed out left, right and centre.
“Someone being sent off can be a game-changing event and I think it’s great they’re looking after the players’ welfare and health. But in a contact sport you need that common sense element.”
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