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Rebels cult hero to sign for Ealing Trailfinders

By Jon Newcombe
Richard Hardwick of the Rebels passes during the round 11 Super Rugby Pacific match between the Melbourne Rebels and the Moana Pasifika at AAMI Park on April 30, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Melbourne Rebels ‘cult hero’ Richard Hardwick is the latest big name to be snapped up by monied Championship outfit Ealing Trailfinders.

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The flanker, 29, was one of the standout players for the Rebels in Super Rugby Pacific 2023, scoring five tries in 10 games as well as cementing his reputation as a turnover king. Only two players could better his tally of 19 turnovers won.

Hardwick won two Wallabies caps in 2017 but has since become a dual international having also been capped by his native Namibia against Canada in November 2022.

Namibia have yet to announce their Rugby World Cup 2023 training squad but as one of the Welwitschias’ most-talented players, his inclusion would seem certain pending the terms of his contract at Ealing.

His signing is another statement of intent from Ealing who refuse to slip quietly away into the shadows despite having their ambitions stymied by the RFU and Premiership Rugby.

This summer, former England international Billy Twelvetrees has moved across from Gloucester along with Aussie back-rower Jordy Reid in a deal that reputedly matched his Cherry and Whites wages.

Having Reid, who was a real fans’ favourite in his first spell at Ealing, in the same back row as Hardwick will make Ben Ward’s team an even more formidable force at the breakdown next season.

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Prop Lewis Boyce, from Bath, is another Premiership player heading to Vallis Way from the West Country, while other notable signings include Cardiff stalwart, scrum-half Lloyd Williams.

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Ealing finished runners-up to Jersey Reds in last year’s RFU Championship but will be hellbent on putting that right in 2023/24, especially with the squad that they have assembled.

Given the outlay on player wages, one of the club’s next priorities must surely be to ensure their 5,000-capacity ground ticks all the right boxes when the club is audited for promotion.

The Mike Gooley-bankrolled team were denied promotion when they won the Championship in 2022 because their ground fell short of the minimum standards criteria and they would have been blocked again this year even if they had finished top for a second consecutive season.

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