Rugby Union

ARU's flexible contracts can help keep Kurtley Beale, says Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika paused his European fact-finding mission to declare the ARU's flexible contract system can help win the war against rich overseas clubs, including a bid to keep Kurtley Beale in Australia.

Cheika was in France on Wednesday as the ARU pulled off a massive coup, as flanker David Pocock finalised a flexible deal with the ACT Brumbies and the Wallabies that will allow him to step away from the game next year before returning for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

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Pocock's contract announcement comes as English club Wasps tries to poach Beale on a deal reportedly worth $1.35 million per season.

Cheika is trekking around Europe to meet overseas-based players who are still eligible for Wallabies duties, to gauge their availability and interest in a Test return, as well as luring others back to Australia.

Wanted man: Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs.
Wanted man: Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images

The former NSW Waratahs coach believes the ARU's decision to be more flexible with its contracts is finally helping the Wallabies compete with cashed-up international clubs.

"As long as we're making decisions for all the right reasons and there's creativity in there," Cheika told Fairfax Media from France. "There's no guarantee we're always going to get it right, but we're really trying to lay it out so it's really clear and we get it right more often than not.


"I think Kurtley is a separate discussion [to Pocock's new contract] – it's more of a play there or play here situation. The flexibility in a contract, definitely, is an option to swap over. But it's not the same as [Pocock's]."

Beale falls into the eligibility category dubbed "Giteau's law" that allows players who have played 60 Tests and served Australian rugby for seven years to sign contracts abroad without losing their Wallabies rights.

Cheika enacted the rule change to recruit Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell last year, while Dean Mumm and Kane Douglas also benefited from eligibility changes.

In the past two years Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Pocock and Christian Lealiifano have all signed flexible deals to allow them to supplement their earnings overseas while staying committed to Super Rugby.

Giteau, Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Will Genia, Sekope Kepu and George Smith are all based overseas but available for the Wallabies, while there are a host of other players Cheika is keen to lure back to Australia.

Cheika hopes Waratahs playmaker Beale will resist massive overseas offers, and says the ARU will work to keep him in Australia.

"Obviously there are clubs interested in [Beale] and it's more of a direct negotiation," Cheika said. "I'm keen to keep him and keen to keep as many players as we can, regardless of their status.

"As you can see, I'm over here [in Europe] and hopefully we can repatriate some guys as well."

Meanwhile, the Waratahs welcome back veteran No.8 Wycliff Palu as they brace for a torrid breakdown battle with the Super Rugby champions the Highlanders at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.

Palu replaces young back-rower Jed Holloway in one of two changes, with Tolu Latu to start at hooker in the absence of injured Wallabies star Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Resuming after a third-round bye, coach Daryl Gibson has stuck with the same back line that started in the Waratahs' 32-15 loss to the table-topping Brumbies in Canberra.

Former NRL flyer Reece Robinson has been given another chance to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench, in what is expected to be a fast-paced spectacle between the 2014 champions and reigning title-holders.

NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Matt Carraro, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Zac Guildford, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (capt), David Dennis, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Angus Taavao, Tolu Latu, Paddy Ryan. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Tom Robertson, Sam Lousi, Jed Holloway, Jack Dempsey, Matt Lucas, Reece Robinson.

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Ryan Tongia, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, Shane Christie (co-captain), Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brow