The Waratahs are set for a major blow in the wake of reports that veteran utility back Kurtley Beale is close to signing a deal in France.
A report from the Daily Telegraph indicates that the 31-year-old star, who will captain the Waratahs for the first time in his career on Friday when his side faces the Chiefs in Wollongong, is set to depart for Top 14 club Racing 92.
While his exit to Europe will leave a gaping hole in the New South Wales squad, the 92-test veteran should still be available for international selection with the Wallabies after having met the 60-cap threshold required for overseas-based players.
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That is, however, provided that Rugby Australia don’t alter the Giteau Law which would make Beale eligible for selection while playing abroad.
According to reports earlier this week, Australia’s governing body is expected to review its eligibility rules ahead of July’s test series between the Wallabies and Ireland in Brisbane and Sydney.
The review of the eligibility system could work in Beale’s favour, though, as reports indicate that RA may look to halve the 60-cap threshold to allow the likes of midfielder Samu Kerevi and loose forward Sean McMahon to return to the national set-up.
Fox Sports also reports that Beale may not be the only Australian-based Wallaby with his sights set on France, as Melbourne Rebels duo Matt Philip and Luke Jones are expected to sign with Top 14 club Pau.
The loss of three internationally capped players in the form of Philips, Jones and Beale would come at a difficult time for Super Rugby, which is experiencing a raft of challenges to maintain fan interest as well as star power within playing ranks.
These challenges include falling crowds and television audiences, geographical and time zone obstacles and threats from cashed up clubs in Europe – such as Racing 92 and Pau – and Japan.
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