ACT Brumbies coach Dan McKellar says Tevita Kuridrani has earned the right to take a sabbatical from Australian rugby to recoup some of his earnings, but says process must be selective to work.
Kuridrani is one of a handful of Wallabies who have been given permission to explore playing opportunities abroad after players accepted a 60 per cent wage reduction during the coronavirus shutdown.
The powerfully-built outside centre was one of 12 Brumbies named in Dave Rennie's first satellite Wallabies squad, with ACT players rewarded for the club's best start to a season in 16 years.
But the future is also on everybody's minds, with a moratorium on all Super Rugby contract negotiations until officials and players know have a clearer picture about the coming years.
The Brumbies have secured the likes of Tom Banks, Allan Alaalatoa, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Rob Valetini and Pete Samu on long-term contracts. Kuridrani signed a one-year extension at the end of last season despite falling out of favour with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, stalling his 61-Test career.
Rather than be lost to Australian rugby for good, McKellar believes a sabbatical could prolong Kuridrani's career in Canberra and Wallabies gold if he chooses to test the market. "We haven't had conversations about him going to Japan or anything like that," McKellar said on Friday.
"He loves the Brumbies and playing for Australia. Whilst it feels like he's been around forever, he's only just turned 29, I feel his skills and development over the last couple of years he's come along leaps and bounds.
"I feel playing for someone like Dave Rennie would excite him at national level. There is an option in his contract, but [Kuridrani] doesn't go rushing into decisions around his future.
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"It's an option he's probably earned, to be honest. He has given incredible service to our club and to Australian rugby over a long period of time."
Asked if he was supportive of the sabbatical option given the wage reduction, McKellar added: "I think you look at it on an individual case basis. Guys who have given a whole lot of service to the game in this country, is it an option for them? Yeah. Do players just starting their career ... would I necessarily support that? Probably not."
Kuridrani started the season in impressive form, taking on senior back-line duties to help lead the Brumbies to five wins from six games before the season was shut down.
His individual efforts put him on Rennie's radar, with the incoming Test mentor adding Kuridrani to an extended Wallabies squad.
Rennie's recognition counts for little in the short-term future given there is no Test schedule or training camps to come, but it is an indication of how well the Brumbies were playing before the shutdown.
Bolters Noah Lolesio, Tom Wright and Irae Simone joined back-rowers Rob Valetini and Pete Samu, fullback Banks, Kuridrani and front-rowers Slipper, Alaalatoa, Sio and Folau Faingaa. Canberra-bound scrumhalf Nic White was also included.
Toni Pulu had a shoulder reconstruction on Friday after his surgery was delayed, but he is expected to be unable to play in a reformed Super Rugby this year.