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Ex-Wallabies flanker targets World Cup appearance with minnows

By AAP
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The Super Rugby Pacific form of the Rebels’ Richard Hardwick is set to see him rewarded with a Rugby World Cup berth – but not with the Wallabies. The Melbourne flanker was a stand-out in their tight loss to competition heavyweights the Hurricanes last round. As well as his work around the breakdown Hardwick scored two tries as the Rebels rallied back from 7-24 down at half-time before a six-point loss, earning him bragging rights over wing and teammate Monty Ioane.

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The pair are set to cross paths in the group stage at the World Cup in France later this year, with Ioane representing Italy and Hardwick his country of birth, Namibia. With two Wallabies caps in 2017, Hardwick said he was told last year by then coach Dave Rennie he was not part of his plans so he turned to Namibia, where he lived before his family relocated to Western Australia.

Despite Rennie making way for Eddie Jones, Hardwick, who earned his first cap for the southwest African nation late in 2022, has no regrets about joining Namibia . “I was talking to Rennie and they just wanted to go down a different direction, younger players and a different style of rugby that is not ideally suited for me, which is fine,” Hardwick said.

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“So I just took things in my own hands. There are a few things in my life that I would love to accomplish before retiring and I’m not getting any younger. The opportunity came up last year in November to go over and play for Namibia and potentially get a crack at a World Cup, so I wasn’t going to wait around.”

Hardwick said his move to the rugby minnows meant a lot to his family and in particular, his father Michael, who had represented the nation at several sports, foremost cricket. “I can do a lot of good in Namibian rugby, not only representing them, but in developing… bring my experience from Australian rugby and at an international level as well.

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“It was also special for my dad. He represented Namibia for cricket and golf and squash so that is special to have two generations who have played for the country. He gave up quite a lot to move us to Australia and give us the life that we have now and I’m very grateful for that so giving back for both my parents is special.”

Hardwick and his Rebels will hunt for their first win of the season on Friday at AAMI Park against the Waratahs. Boasting a back row that contains former Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper and new sensation Langi Gleeson, the Waratahs posted an impressive win over Fijian Drua last round.

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Hardwick said confidence was building in Melbourne that they could match it with the best in the competition. “They have got a dangerous back row and you can’t underestimate them. They are going to put on big shots, they are going to be a menace at the breakdown, they are going to have big ball carriers.

“We have to stick together as a unit to try and nullify them and we have got a couple of plans around that but for the most part, it’s going to be a team effort, just to stay on top of them and frustrate them.”

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