Gerrard tweets out at Burgess move
THE mooted return of former Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess has ruffled feathers in the ranks, with a former Rebels player condemning Melbourne for contemplating the signing and the Brumbies confirming their interest.
In a series of hastily deleted tweets on Thursday afternoon, former Rebels and Wallabies back Mark Gerrard criticised his former club for considering giving up current halfback Nick Phipps in favour of Burgess, who is seeking an early release from French Top 14 club Toulouse.
''Heard the Rebels signed [Burgess] for next year. What's doing #melbournerebels, [Phipps] has played the house down for 2 years for you blokes,'' Gerrard posted.
''Heard you are letting this bloke go [Phipps] My only question, WHY???? @MelbourneRebels #shame.''
The reality is Phipps, now the Wallabies' second-choice No.9 behind Will Genia, is off contract at the end of the season and had held off re-signing with the Rebels.
It is understood Melbourne had sought to secure him but no deal had been reached before Burgess made his intention to return to Australia known.
The Brumbies are in a similar situation, with their starting halfback Nic White also off contract and negotiations under way. There was speculation the Waratahs had also expressed interest in the 22-year-old.
Brumbies coach Jake White said on Thursday he was very interested in Burgess and had been in contact with his manager.
''As we speak, we're negotiating who is going to be our halfback [next year and beyond], that's why a guy like Luke Burgess's name pops up,'' White said.
''We'd love to engage with him about whether he's available, but at the same time we've got Nic, Ian [Prior] and Mark Swanepoel.''
Burgess, who would require an early release from Toulouse and would not return to Australia until the end of May if he secured one, started his career with the Brumbies in 2005 before joining the Waratahs.
The 28-year-old joined Toulouse after the World Cup in 2011, but is ready to return.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said he had not spoken to Burgess and was focused on retaining the club's current talent across the squad.
''One of the important things is that I have over 20 players who are off contract at the end of the year and retention is our priority at the moment,'' Cheika said.
''Obviously with the salary cap, you've got to count numbers all the time … we know that [we have] a lot of players who acquired Wallaby honours in the last season but they're not on top-ups and they're going to be looking [for top-ups]. So we want to manage our retention process really well before we think about recruiting new players.''
Meanwhile, prize Waratahs recruit Michael Hooper will get a chance for some payback against the Blues on Saturday when he plays his first game for the franchise.
The openside breakaway is one of five Wallabies, named in a 28-man squad for the trial in Whangarei, who did not play in the team's opening trial against Melbourne in Hobart last weekend.
Waratahs squad: Michael Alaalatoa, Richard Aho Kotoni Ale, Tom Carter, Cam Crawford, Kane Douglas, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Michael Hodge, Jed Holloway, Luke Holmes, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, AJ Gilbert, Tom Kingston, Matt Lucas, Brendan McKibbin (c), Tolu Latu, Dane Maraki, Drew Mitchell, Elijah Niko, Greg Peterson, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Lachie Turner, Peter Samu, Will Skelton, John Ulugia, Ben Volavola