Will Skelton has confirmed to Rugby Australia officials that he won’t be returning to Australia in the wake of Saracens’ salary cap scandal.
Hopes were high throughout Australia that the 18-test Wallabies second rower would be lured back Down Under to resume his Super Rugby and international career as the reigning English and European champions have been forced to offload a number of players before spending next season in the RFU Championship.
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The 27-year-old was happy to stay in Europe, though, but that didn’t prevent the governing body of Australian rugby from attempting to re-sign Skelton once again in the midst of the Saracens salary cap drama.
Such a move would allow him to represent the Wallabies, something he can’t do from overseas as he doesn’t meet the 60-cap threshold for offshore-based players.
Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told the Sydney Morning Herald last month that the organisation was in talks with Skelton about a return to his homeland, and that he was confident in closing in on a deal.
“Discussions are ongoing and continuing,” Johnson said. “We want him back if we can but we want people wanting to play for Australia. If it’s about other things, that’s their choice. For me I want people to want to play for Australia. We’ve made it clear to Will we want him back.
“He’s made massive shifts and strides in his physical appearance. It’s shown on the pitch and he’s played great rugby.”
However, an RA spokesperson confirmed to the Herald on Tuesday morning that Skelton had indicated that he won’t be coming back to Australia.
The Herald reports that Skelton didn’t disclose which club he was going to instead, but it is widely understood that La Rochelle will be his landing destination.
“I don’t know if I’ve hit a ruck in my career so I don’t know if that’s something the team will want me to do!”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 28, 2020
The move across the English Channel means that, unless there is a change to the Giteau Law for overseas-based Australian players, Skelton won’t be available for Wallabies in their first test this year under new coach Dave Rennie against Ireland in July.
RA has previously stated that it is open to the possibility of reviewing the Giteau Law, but no change has been made to the selection rule which was first established in 2015.
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