Dumped Wallaby Samu Kerevi is one of 12 players from the n squad who will be released by coach Michael Cheika for the opening round of the National Rugby Championship that kicks off this weekend.
Kerevi, who had a game to forget against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney, will get a chance to find some form for Brisbane City in the NRC, should he be selected.
Second-rowers Kane Douglas and Adam Korczyk have been released for City, while recent Wallabies debutant Izack Rodda and Izaia Perese may get an opportunity for Queensland Country.
Joe Powell (Canberra Vikings), Tetera Faulkner, Curtis Rona and Billy Meakes, of Perth Spirit, and Marika Koroibete, Jordan Uelese and Lopeti Timani, of Melbourne Rising, have also been released from Wallabies duties to play for their NRC teams.
A similar-sized Wallabies squad will fly to Perth on Sunday for their next Test against South Africa at nib Stadium.
Meanwhile, Perth Spirit captain and Western Force representative Michael Ruru says it would be detrimental for the code in Western if they were to lose their NRC side.
With the axe hanging over the Force ahead of next week’s appeal in the NSW Supreme Court, people in the west are concerned Rugby WA may be stripped of its NRC franchise as well from next season.
“It’s still a bit up in the air,” Ruru said. “We’ll just have to roll with it and see what happens.
“It’d be detrimental to the game if it wasn’t there. You’ve got these young kids coming up, aspiring to be footy players and playing club rugby with aspirations to play NRC ??? so if there’s no NRC squad there’s no real point to play rugby in WA, other than socially, because there’s no aspiration to go higher.”
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver, who will leave his position in the next few months, said having an NRC team in the west was “absolutely” imperative.
“We really want to make sure that there is the appropriate player-development pathway in every corner of the country, including WA,” Pulver said. “My own personal view is a Perth NRC team is a very important part of that pathway.”
Pulver later joked that when he makes an appearance in Perth next week to watch the Wallabies, “I suspect a couple of Western Force fans might sidle up beside me, so I can look forward to that”.
NSW Country Eagles Paddy Ryan said it would be a shame if the Spirit, last year’s NRC champions, did not feature in the competition in years to come.
“If they weren’t to have a Super Rugby team and the decision were to be upheld, I think they should certainly have something for the NRC,” Ryan said. “They won it last year, they’ve always been strong. If you asked a few of them they would say their Super Rugby success for the Force came off the back of how close the Perth Spirit team was.”
Players from all nine NRC teams were present at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday morning for the launch of the tournament, which will see a Fijian side added for the first time.
“The boys can’t wait to get on the field,” said Fijian Drua halfback Seru Vularika. “People back home are very excited. They can’t wait for the boys to play at our home ground. We’re going to play the Fijian style of rugby with plenty of offloads.”
2017 NRC round one fixtures (all kick-off times local)
Saturday September 2: Brisbane City vs Fiji Airways Drua at Ballymore, Brisbane, 3pm
Saturday September 2: Canberra Vikings vs QLD Country at Viking Park, Canberra, 3pm
Sunday September 3: Sydney Rams vs NSW Country Eagles at TG Millner, Sydney, 3pm
Sunday September 3: Perth Spirit vs Melbourne Rising at McGillivray, Perth, 3pm