Australian lock Kane Douglas has been linked with a return to Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad as the former Leinster coach begins preparations for September’s Rugby World Cup in England.
Douglas has two years remaining on a three-year deal and Leinster are seeking financial compensation for his temporary release. The Australian Rugby Union are looking to draft Douglas back into Wallabies camp and are hoping they can convince Douglas to follow in the steps of Dean Mumm and re-sign with an Australian Super Rugby franchise for the 2016 season. Douglas has been linked with a move to the Queensland Reds as the Reds look to replace departing captain James Horwill paving a hole in Queensland’s second row stocks that Douglas would be more than capable of filling.
Under Australia’s current eligibility rules, a foreign based player can represent the Wallabies if they have played at least 7 years for an Australian Super Rugby franchise and have at least 60 caps for the national team in what has become commonly known as the Giteau rule.
Douglas has only 14 caps for the Wallabies but according to reports the ARU will be willing to make an exception to the rule if he follows in compatriot Dean Mumm’s steps and re-signs in Australian rugby. Douglas has been linked with the Queensland Reds for a while now but still has two years left on his contract and will be vital to Leinster’s season as a foreign based player.
Leinster are seeking hefty compensation for Douglas’ release as the three-time European champions will already be without 25 members of their squad for the start of the Pro 12 season, with 23 players drafted into Joe Schmidt’s extended squad while Douglas and Zane Kirchner battle to make Australian and South African squads respectively.
Leinster manager Guy Easterby claims the province has made their stance very clear on Douglas’ potential release and will not budge without financial compensation for the Australian’s release.
“We have been in discussions with the Australian Rugby Union and with Kane for a few weeks now and we have made our position very clear,” said Easterby on Monday.
“Kane is contracted to Leinster Rugby for another two seasons and we look forward to welcoming him back when his commitments with the ARU come to an end.”
Both sides appear to be in ongoing negotiations regarding Douglas’ release but Cheika has said that if Douglas were to re-sign with the ARU then he would be very much welcomed into the Wallabies World Cup preparations.
“I only know what I’m hearing … I’m hearing there’s some noise he wants to come home,” Cheika told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If he is coming back to Australia to play and signs with an Australian Super Rugby team, of course we’d be interested in providing a top-up. But I think he’s still in contract in Europe.”
“At this stage, in fairness to Kane, … I’ve heard he’s keen to come home. But we’ve got to see how that pans out. He has to have the intention to come back or he doesn’t qualify.
“But time is of the essence. It’s not like we can wait a couple of weeks and say ‘come back when you feel like it’. But if he was fit and able, he’d be considered.”
Putting Douglas’ release aside, Kane would still have to prove his fitness and health to Australian selectors after the former Waratahs lock battled injury for the majority of his debut season with Leinster.
Douglas recently recovered from back surgery and battled a hamstring injury for most of last season, missing five games in the process.
Given the ARU’s financial situation, it would be unlikely Australia’s rugby powers would shelve €250, 000 for a temporary release without a long term commitment from Douglas, but if the reports are true and Douglas wants to return to Australia, the ARU be willing to pay off Leinster to ensure his return to Australian rugby.