The Waratahs have emerged as shock contenders to sign star lock Leone Nakarawa following the Fijian’s sacking from Top 14 club Racing 92.
Nakarawa was fired from the Paris-based club on Friday after returning two weeks late from the World Cup in Japan as he had returned to Fiji to help construct a new family home following his country’s pool stage elimination in October.
An attendee of three World Cups and a member of Fiji’s Olympic gold medal-winning sevens side of 2016, Nakarawa is widely regarded as one of the world’s premier second-rowers.
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Subsequently, his newfound free agency has reportedly made him a target for numerous clubs in England and Scotland, but media reports in France have also included the Waratahs as a potential new destination for the 31-year-old.
Rugby.com.au is also reporting that the New South Wales Super Rugby side have made contact with the Fijian’s management team about the possibility of bringing the move to fruition.
The Waratahs would not be able to match the significant financial sums that will inevitably be thrown Nakarawa’s way by European clubs, but it is believed that the 62-cap international is interested in testing himself in Super Rugby – a competition of which he has never played in.
Also working in the Waratahs’ favour is that there is a favourable window whereby Nakarawa could play for one season in Australia next year before returning to the northern hemisphere in August ahead of the 2020-21 domestic season.
New Waratahs head coach Rob Penney has spoken of his desire of recruiting barnstorming ball-carriers, and Nakarawa would fit that bill given his damaging offloading ability and impressive athleticism.
However, incoming Wallabies boss Dave Rennie could provide stern competition for the Waratahs, as the current Glasgow Warriors head coach is eager on bringing Nakarawa back to the club he played for over three seasons before moving to France in 2016.
As European player of the year in 2018, Nakarawa’s services are clearly in demand worldwide, but Racing’s patience wore thin with their star man after he took an extended break from his club duties and missed two matches.
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“This decision, taken in consultation with the sporting director of the club, follows on from the proven disciplinary manoeuvres of Nakarawa who, in particular, did not show up at the resumption of the training programme on October 28,” the club said in a statement.
“Nakarara, moreover, refused to answer the messages that the club addressed to him after having noted his unjustified absence and was willing to fix the date of his return.
“His abandonment of his post for more than two weeks has been a serious prejudice to Racing… moreover, it is a deplorable example for Racing players as his title of best player in the 2018 European Cup should have encouraged him to be exemplary.
“At Racing, the only star is the team and the individualistic attitude of Nakarawa is inconceivable. It indicates a total lack of team spirit and a characterised insubordination. In the interests of preserving the institution of Racing, this decision of rupture was imperative.”
The move to axe the 1.98m, 109kg lock means Racing are now short on second-row options, with only 35-year-old Irish international Donnacha Ryan, former All Black Dominic Bird and young Frenchman Boris Palu, as well as French international Bernard Le Roux, who usually plays in the back row, remaining at the club.
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